A Matter of Trust
Second Sunday of Easter
Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston
It is a glorious season! It’s Easter season. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
And it’s spring season, too. Flowers have risen indeed!
And, it’s also baseball season! Baseball season indeed!
I have learned a lot about baseball by watching my son Christian play over the years.
*I learned that they are not called referees but umpires; that it is not overtime, but extra innings; that stealing is a good thing; and getting dirty is even better (this I have to remind myself as I scrub the dirt stains out of his uniform).
*I learned that it is a much harder game than it seems. You have to keep your head in the game, because it can change quickly.
*I learned that in the same game a batter can strike out and get a home run, and that getting a hit 3 out of 10 times you are up (30%) is a very good batting average.
*I learned that a pitcher can walk three batters, and with bases loaded, strike out the next three batters and end the inning.
Christian is a pitcher and I thought the idea was to strike the batters out period. I was surprised when I heard Brian reminding him what the coaches teach--Just throw balls the batters can hit. Let your team field the balls. Do your job and let them do their job. Trust your teammates.
*I learned that in baseball, you can’t win the game by yourself. You have to trust your teammates.
That’s the lesson Jesus’ disciples had to learn.
Today’s gospel reading tells the story of the night of Easter, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples. They had learned a lot, but Jesus had one last important lesson to teach them. Through a locked door, Jesus came and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
This was a conventional greeting, but it was more than that. Jesus gave them the gift of his peace. The Greek word is eirene and it has several meanings. First, Jesus offers them a sense of calm and well being, an antidote to the fear they are feeling inside. With this gift of peace, Jesus reminds the disciples they need not be anxious or afraid, but trust, “it is well with my soul.”
After the disciples recognize Jesus and rejoice, Jesus says to them again, “Peace be with you.” This time, Jesus is offering them a sense of reconciliation with God. He goes on to say, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” With this gift of peace, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls them to go out into the world and no matter what persecution they encounter, they need not fear, but trust that God is with them, working to bring peace through them.
But, one of the disciples was not there--Thomas missed the whole thing and says he will not believe until he sees Jesus for himself, thereby earning the infamous name “Doubting Thomas.” Every time this story comes up, we preach against poor Thomas for not having enough faith to believe in God without seeing, (which by the way is what all the other disciples wanted, too). The real problem with Thomas, I think, is not that he did not believe in God, but that he did not believe in God’s people. He rejected the good news that his long-time and close friends shared about what they saw. He thought he knew best. He judged his fellow disciples as not being truthful or trustworthy. The community that Jesus tried so hard to build throughout his time with them is threatened by Thomas’s skepticism. Thomas did not trust his teammates. It’s a matter of trust.
Trust was a problem in the time of Jesus. And it remains a problem today.
In our country, lack of trust of our fellow citizens can tear our country apart, and is today:
*Team CNN v. Team Fox News
*Team Democrat v. Team Republican
*Team Muller Truth Report v. Team Trump Witch Hunt
*Climate Change v. Hoax
*Sanctuary Cities for Immigrants v. Detention Centers and Wall
*Facts v. Alternative Facts
The message we hear every day is--choose your side and demonize the enemy.
In our cities, lack of trust of our neighbors can tear communities apart. We have seen this play out in cities where a white police officer shot and killed a black suspect and acquitted and protests erupt.
In our religious centers, lack of trust of other beliefs can tear communities of faith apart. We have seen in New Zealand and Sri Lanka and Pittsburgh and just yesterday in San Diego, where people who believe differently are killed, even as they worship.
In our churches, lack of trust of our fellow believers tears churches apart. Our own Community Church learned this lesson only too well.
Even within our own Christian team, there is division and distrust on both sides.
*Pro-Choice v. Pro-Life
*Children’s testimonies of abuse v. Clergy denial
*Social justice action v. evangelical belief
*Acceptance of gays and lesbians v. conversion therapy
*Sacrificial giving v. prosperity gospel
*My Jesus is good v. My Jesus is better
The debates go on between the teams and among the teammates.
We refuse to accept what the others are saying to be worthy of consideration. We refuse to believe something that might force us to re-examine our comfortable preconceptions. We have a trust problem.
“It is Thomas’ community-shattering doubt that the Gospel of John rejects. For at some point, if our churches are to be faithful to the risen Christ, we must stop distrusting our friends in Christ. At the very least, we must stop questioning motives, doubting dedication, and thinking the worst of our companions when they state a different opinion or offer a contradictory version. We must learn to believe not simply in the goodness of the Lord, but in the goodness of one another--even when they deliver the strangest news, “We have seen the Lord.” (Nancy Pittman, Feasting on the Word commentary)
Jesus comes to Doubting Thomas and says, “Peace be with you.” The Greek word, from the verb eiro, means to join or bind together that which has been separated or divided. This time, Jesus is offering Thomas a sense of harmony and unity, strong enough to overcome division and dissension. He goes on to say, “Do not doubt, but believe.” With this gift of peace, Jesus calls all the disciples, “believe--not just in me, but in your fellow believers.” Trust that God is with you and others, working in the world to bring about peace between and among the teams. Jesus ends the lesson with these words: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” In other words, blessed are you who trust the words of your fellow companions in faith. It’s a matter of trust.
It’s baseball season. And it’s the Easter season.
I have learned that in baseball, as in life, we are on the same team, and have to work together and trust one another. You can’t win by yourself. We have to work together for good. It’s a matter of trust.
Today, we are adding new members to our Community Church team. Together, we have the power to change the world by sharing our faith. Trust your teammates. Trust your Coach Christ.
And trust in the power of peace. Jesus says, “Peace be with you”
Because the peace that Jesus gives is like no other gift.
This is the peace that surpasses understanding, the peace the world cannot give, the peace we only find in Jesus Christ our risen Lord, the peace that has the power to unite us together and win one for good, and for God. May it be so.