Second Sunday of Easter: Year B

“It Will Not Fail To Do What I Plan For It”

The Second Sunday of Easter: Year B

A sermon by Ginnie Glassman, Lay Preacher

(April 7, 2024)

I remember a priest once telling us “Beware! Now that Easter is over, Jesus is off the cross and on the loose. He could show up anywhere!”

In today’s Gospel, on Easter evening, Jesus shows up most unexpectedly in the room where the disciples were hiding in fear. And he came in through a locked door! They could not believe Jesus had returned from the dead. They heard his voice when he said “Peace be with you.”  He showed them the scars in his hands and in his side. In Mark’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus even has them feel that he had flesh and bones. And he eats a piece of fish in front of them to show that he is not a ghost. He was someone they had lived with for three years yet he had to prove to them who he really was.

A bit later in the evening, Thomas joins the others after a Dunkin’ run. The disciples are all excited to tell him that they have seen Jesus. Not having experienced what they did, Thomas does not believe them, earning him the unfortunate nickname “Doubting Thomas”.

Was Thomas more doubtful than the eleven or did he just want the proof the others had seen? To Thomas’ surprise, Jesus came back the following Sunday evening, again through the locked door, specifically to speak to him. Jesus invites Thomas to put his finger in the wounds in his hands and in his side. To which Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God.” Now that he has seen Jesus for himself, he is no longer skeptical.

Speaking of doubting, why were the disciples still in the locked room a week later? Jesus had come to them, breathed the Holy Spirit on them and sent them out. Did they doubt that he was going to continue to be with them? Once the disciples did go out and preach, they spread the Good News of Jesus throughout the world.

The disciples and Thomas are not the first people in Scripture to have doubts. There are many people in the Bible in whom we see doubts and fears despite their faith in God.

You will remember that Abraham had pleaded with God for an heir. He even tried to resolve the situation himself by having a child with Sarah’s maid, Hagar. Later, God tells him that he and Sarah will have a son. Abraham and Sarah both laugh.  Abraham says “Can a man have a child when he is a hundred years old? Can Sarah have a child at ninety?” (Genesis 17:17; 18:12) But God did send their son, Isaac. Both Abraham and Isaac became leaders of their people.

We all know about Moses being called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses did not believe he could do it.

“I am nobody. Who am I to speak to Pharoah?” (Exodus 3:11)

“What if the Israelites don’t believe me and won’t listen to me?” (Exodus 4:1)

“Don’t send me, I have never been a good speaker.” (Exodus 4:10)

God responds each time that he will be with him and even give him the words to say. Despite all the reassurances, Moses responds “Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13-17)  God will not. Moses becomes a great leader and gains freedom for the Israelites – with a lot of support and ten plagues from God!

Then there is Gideon. He and the Israelites had lived in fear under the oppression of the Midianites for seven years. God appeared to Gideon and said “Go with all your great strength, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I myself am sending you.” (Judges 6: 14)

To which Gideon responds:

“But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the tribe…and I am the least important member of my family.” (Judges 6:15)

“…give me some proof that you are really the Lord.” (Judges 6:17)

Gideon puts wool on the ground and tells God: If, in the morning, only the wool has dew on it but not the ground, he will know that God intends to use him to rescue Israel. And that happens.

But Gideon wants further proof. This time, he wants to find the ground covered with dew and the wool still dry. That also happens. With this proof, Gideon finally gathers the men and becomes a military leader, freeing his people from the Midianites – with a lot of help from God.

And what about Jonah? God calls him to go to Nineveh and speak out against the wickedness in that city. Jonah gets right up … and sets out in the opposite direction. He boards a ship to Spain so he can get away from God. God sends a violent storm. Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard to calm the storm. They finally do and Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish. Three days later, the fish spits him out on the shore. God tells him again to go to Nineveh and proclaim his message. This time, Jonah obeys and saves the city of Nineveh from destruction – not without some pouting, of course.

Are you noticing a theme here? God calls people to the work he needs done but they offer all kinds of excuses or simply try to run away. Despite fear and doubt, when they finally follow God’s leading, he is with them 100%. As we read in Isaiah, God says “…the word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.” (Isaiah 55:11)

When we have doubts, we are in good company with so many in the Bible. I remember a poster I saw in college that said: “It takes more energy for God to convert one sinner than it did for Him to create the whole world, for the world did not resist.”

I have always trusted that if God asks once, he will not give up. He is able to help us overcome doubts and do the work he needs to get done.

The first time I preached, due to an emergency for the priest, I had fifteen minutes to prepare. God was wise in not giving me time to make excuses. This led to preacher training in the NW region. That led to me working for several months to set up a program in the SW Region. When it was time to begin, covid hit. The priests were overwhelmed with technology and pastoral issues and could no longer help. I figured we would just wait until after covid. But no, even though I argued that could not do it because 1) I was not a priest, 2) I had no one to work with, 3) I didn’t know Zoom, it seemed clear to me that this was where God had been leading me, confirmed by several people that knew me well. The program is now for all of the diocese and I am loving what I am doing. The Father does know best.

Our parish is going through a time of transition. When Pastor Jane left in January, we were uncertain and fearful of the future of our parish. Would we maintain the parishioners that we had? Would we be able to continue to function as a parish? Would we have the leadership we needed to move forward? Would we be required to merge with another parish? Would our parish be forced to close? God heard all our fears and our worries. He has guided us to strong leadership in our Vestry and in our parish. He helped us to connect with Rev. Liles who is a blessing to us. We are working together as a parish. Our parish hall is almost finished and ready for use. The sense of community here is strong. I think we can trust that he will continue to guide us and fulfill our faith in him.

One writer said, “Doubt is a common experience that people go through at some point in their lives. It’s that nagging feeling of uncertainty, questioning oneself or others, and feeling unsure about the future.”

There is a beautiful prayer from a Jewish prayerbook that I want to share with you. It shows the commonality of our experience with doubt and fear.

Let us pray:

You are with us in our prayer, in our love and our doubt, in our longing to feel Your presence and do Your will. You are the still, clear voice within us. Therefore, O God, when doubt troubles us, when anxiety makes us tremble, and pain clouds the mind, we look inward for the answers to our prayers. There may we find You, and there find courage, insight and endurance. And let our worship bring us closer to one another, that all who seek You, may find new strength for Your service. (Gates of Prayer, p. 79)


Collect and Readings:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 4:32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron, and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

4 It is like the dew of Hermon that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: life for evermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.