Come as you are. (Sermon) April 27, 2014

Sermon – April 27, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Second Sunday of Easter

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.”  John 20:27

Please be seated.

I love country music.  The twangier, the better.  I really need to go to Nashville.  One of the things I love about country music are the puns or the play on words.  They make me laugh.  They are so clever.  For instance, have you heard the Billy Currington song, like my dog?  The refrain goes:

Want you to love me like my dog does, baby.
When I come home, want you to just go crazy
He never looks at me like he might hate me
I want you to love me like my dog. 

Who comes up with this…so funny and yet so true.

Well, this past week, thanks to Linda and Paula, who frequently give me CDs to listen to while I’m driving, I’ve been listening to a Randy Travis CD of Gospel Tunes.  Some are familiar hymns like Blessed Assurance and Love Lifted Me.  Some I’d never heard before.  I’ll sing for awhile or listen for awhile and then my mind drifts.  So somehow I’d missed one of the songs .  It’s called, Pray for the Fish.  I became curious about it and decided to really listen.  And I was surprised and delighted to hear:

Everybody gathered where the river runs wider

At the edge of town
To see that Eddie Lee Vaughn baptism
Was really gonna go down
Folks bet their hard earned money
That water wouldn’t change a thing
They set the odds at a hundred to one
His soul wouldn’t never come clean
Then the preacher said
People take a moment or two
There’s something we need to do

Pray for the fish
They won’t know what’s coming
When the sin starts rolling off the likes of him
Lord be with ‘em, they ain’t done nothin’
Please won’t you leave them just a little bit ‘a room to swim
Pray for the fish

Well the preacher ducked him under
That cool clear water
Then he did it again
Eddie came up yelling
Lord in Heaven Hallalujah!
I’m a brand new man
Well the water got to bubbling
Sky got to rumbling
And the thunder backed up the choir
The fish started jumpin’
It was like they was swimmin’
In a lake of fire
Then Eddie’s momma stepped out of the crowd
And started yelling out loud

Pray for the fish
They won’t know what’s coming
When the sin starts rolling off the likes of him
Lord be with ‘em, they ain’t done nothin’
Please won’t you leave them just a little bit ‘a room to swim
Pray for the fish

He said everybody cross your fingers
Fold your hands
Pray for Ole Eddie
But before we say amen

Pray for the fish
Lord be with em, they ain’t done nothin’
Please won’t you leave them just a little bit ‘a room to swim
Pray for the fish
Lord pray for the fish

Well that Eddie Lee Vaughn was quite a person, wasn’t he, to get the waters roiling and on fire because of the sin rolling off him at his baptism? 

Now how in the world, does this relate to our Gospel today?  To our most familiar story of “Doubting Thomas?”  Even today you’ll hear someone say that another is a “Doubting Thomas.”  Well, Mr. Eddie Lee Vaughn of our humorous song states an obvious truth about how Jesus cares for us as shown in this Gospel:  Jesus comes to us exactly as we are. 

Yes…. Jesus doesn’t say, You MUST have faith before I’ll come to you.  Jesus doesn’t say, you MUST be perfect before I’ll come to you.  Jesus doesn’t say you MUST have no doubts before I’ll come to you.  Look at this story.

First of all, where was Thomas when Jesus came the first time?  Why had he left the group?  They had huddled together in fear after the trauma of Jesus’ death.  Even though they’d heard the reports of his resurrection, they were still afraid.  But where had Thomas gone?  Had he abandoned the community?  Had he left the group?  Did he get angry because of some decision they’d made and decided to leave?

We don’t know where he was…just that he wasn’t there.    He obviously returns to the community, but does not believe what he’s heard.  He has doubts about what his friends saw.  He won’t believe it until he sees it.  Isn’t that like so many of us?  Good friends come to us and tell us their experience or their story, but we are skeptical.  We might not say that directly to them, but sometimes we put them on the “witness stand” so to speak, questioning every part of their story.  Sometimes we trust science, even though scientists will tell you they don’t understand everything.  Most of the time, we want to see it for ourselves.  We are so like Thomas.

And Jesus could have refused to come back again.  Jesus could have said, “Well, that’s just like Thomas, and I won’t have anything to do with him.  He needs to get right and believe in me.  He needs to have faith in what his friends are telling him.”  Jesus could have refused to come in the way that Thomas needed him to come.

Instead, Jesus returns when Thomas is there.  Jesus consents to Thomas’ demand,  “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.” (John 20:25).  Jesus allows Thomas to put his finger in the holes where the nails were.  Jesus allows Thomas to put his hand in the side that was pierced.  Jesus accepts Thomas.  Jesus loves Thomas.

This doubter, Thomas, believes.  Jesus comes to him as he is and in a way that strengthens Thomas’ faith.  What did Thomas do?  Remember on Jesus’ first visit to the Disciples, Jesus said,

“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.” (John 20:21-23)

Jesus came to the disciples to commission them for their life’s work…for the work they must do now that he is no longer with them in human form.  Tradition has it that Thomas traveled to many places, including India.  He brought the Gospel and faith to India.  He is still quite revered there. 

Come as you are.  Come with your doubts and your skepticism.  Come with your questions.  Jesus accepts you.  Jesus loves you.  And Jesus will strengthen your faith, so you, like Thomas, can say, My Lord and my God! (John 20:28).  Jesus will send you out into the world to do the work only you can do.




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