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A Glorious Joy

  • April 23, 2017
  • 08:00 AM

Sermon for April 23, 2017 (Doubting Thomas Sunday, Year A)

Offered by Nathan Ferrell at The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary

Texts:             1 Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 16; John 20:19-31

Title:               A Glorious Joy

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Lord is risen, my friends. And we are risen to stand with him. This is good news – GREAT news! – which we celebrate with joy in these Great Fifty Days.

But, to begin our meditation today, I want to ask you a question: where was Thomas on the famous Sunday evening so long ago? Where did he go?

Perhaps Thomas figured that it was game over and it was time to move on. Perhaps he decided that, since their Teacher was dead and gone, it was time to move on to a new scene, to another group where the prospects looked a bit brighter.

We have no way of knowing this, but perhaps it was the case.

It reminds me of a small Baptist church in a rural town which was made up of about 20 souls who were – mostly – quite faithful. There was one primary exception to that faithfulness rule. An old farmer named Eugene had stopped coming on Sundays. And when there are so few people, his absence was keenly noticed by all.

So one Sunday after worship, when Eugene once missing yet again, the pastor drove out to Ethan’s farmhouse to ask him what was the matter.

The old farmer explained it quite simply: “You know, farming isn’t what it used to be. I only have these old overalls and these workboots. I don’t own any nice clothes, and it just doesn’t feel right to come into the Lord’s house looking so grungy.”

“Well,” replied the pastor, “I can help with that. We’re close to the same size. I’ve got some extra pants, shirt, jacket and tie. I’ll bring some by tomorrow, and then you can join us next Sunday feeling good, like you belong.”

“Well, OK pastor, if you are willing to share like that, it would be great.”

So the pastor brought these extra clothes by on Monday. However, when the Baptist church gathered for worship that following Sunday, once again Eugene did not show up! The pastor was perplexed – and a bit worried, so again after the service he drove out to the old farmhouse. The pastor was thankful when Eugene answered the door in those nice looking clothes – he obviously didn’t have a heart attack or anything like that – but he was still puzzled about what happened, so he asked. “Eugene, I see you’ve got those nice clothes on, but you didn’t come to church. What happened?”

“Well, pastor, I woke up early and showered and shaved. Then I put on these nice clothes you gave me. And when I looked in the mirror, I looked so good. It was amazing! So I reckoned that I had better go in town to the Episcopal Church instead!”

(No, I didn’t write that story. I found it honestly online!)

Out in the hinterlands of west Texas, there was once a nun named Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency. She was out making her rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of gas. Thankfully, there was a Texaco gas station not far down the road.

With her habit blowing in the hot wind, Sister walked to the station to borrow a gas can and buy some gas. The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had been loaned out, but she could wait until it was returned. Sister Mary Ann was on the way to see a patient, so she wasn’t about to sit there and wait. She walked back to her car to find something that she could use to get some gas.

She looked around in her car for a bit, but they only thing she spotted was a bedpan she had there for her patients. Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, put some gas into it, and carried the bedpan back to her car.

Now, as she was trying to pour the bedpan into the tank, two Baptist ranchers happened to be going by on horseback across the street. They slowed down to watch the nun and see what she was doing. They saw the bedpan and became puzzled, because they didn’t know what was actually in it!

So one of those ranchers turned to the other and said, real earnest, “Listen, if that thing starts, I’m turning Catholic right away!!”

Once a Roman priest was sent by his bishop to a nice parish out on Long Island with a rectory which was beautiful, but old and in need of repair. There was a housekeeper who had been taking care of the place for years. When the priest arrived, she briefed him on the troubles: “Your roof needs to be replaced, Father, your water pressure is low and your furnace needs to be serviced.”

“Thank you, Ms. Torres,” the priest answered. “But listen, you’ve been the housekeeper for years, and I’ve only just arrived. Why don’t we talk about these things as our roof and our furnace? And we can work together to get them fixed. How does that sound?”

Well, about a month later, the bishop came to the parish for a visit. The priest and the bishop were meeting with those about to be confirmed, when Ms. Torres burst into the meeting, terribly upset. “Father, Father,” she blurts out, “a squirrel’s gotten into our house! He’s in our room and he’s hiding under our bed!”

A priest, a pastor, and a rabbi decide to have a little friendly competition to see who is better at his job. So each one goes into the woods, finds a bear, and attempts to convert it. Later, they all get together and compare notes.

The priest begins: “When I found my bear, I prayed the rosary with him and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his first Communion!”

“I found a bear by the river,” says the pastor, “and preached the word of God. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him right there in the river!”

Next, they both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a stretcher in a full body cast. The rabbi looks up at them and says, “You know, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started with circumcision.”

Do you know there are some people who are quite delicate and elegant with their language, and they try to avoid vulgar talk at all costs? Once there was an old fashioned lady like this who was planning a couple of weeks’ vacation in Florida. She wrote a hand-written note to a certain campground to make a reservation. (She didn’t use that email thing!) She wanted to make sure the campground was fully equipped but didn’t know quite how to ask about the “toilet” facilities. She just couldn’t bring herself to write the word “toilet” in her letter. After much deliberation, she finally settled on he old fashioned term “Bathroom Commode,” but when she wrote that down, she still thought it sounded too forward, so she rewrote the entire letter and referred to the “Bathroom Commode” simply as the “B.C.” Does the campground have its own “B.C.?” is what she actually wrote.

The campground owner wasn’t old fashioned at all, and when he got the letter, he couldn’t figure out what the lady was talking about. The “B.C.” completely stumped him! He showed the letter to some campers, but they couldn’t figure out what the lady meant either. Finally, the campground owner figured that the lady must be asking about the local Baptist Church – BC.

So he sat down and wrote the following reply:

“Dear Madam: I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure in informing you that our “B.C.” is located only three miles north of our campground and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. It’s not too far if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of our campers take their lunches along, and make a day of it. They usually arrive early and stay late. The last time my wife and I went was a few years ago, and it was so full that it was standing room only!

It may interest you to know that right now, there is a supper planned when you are here to raise money for more seats. They plan to hold the supper in the middle of the B.C., so everyone can be there together. I would like to say it pains me very much not to go more regularly, but I assure you it is not for lack of desire on my part. As we grow older, it’s more and more of an effort, particularly in colder weather.

When you arrive at the campground, I would be glad to go with you the first time. We can sit together and I can introduce you to all the other folks at the B.C. It’s a very friendly community.”

I shared this next story here two years ago, but it is one of my favorites. So, bear with me, because you just have to hear it again!

Once there was a woman who looked out of her window and saw her German shepherd shaking the life out of her neighbor’s rabbit, as if it were his new toy!

Her family did not get along well with these neighbor’s, so right away she got a wicked knot in her stomach, knowing that this was going to be a disaster.

She grabbed the broom, ran outside and scared her dog off until it dropped the now extremely dead rabbit out of its mouth.  She panicked.  She did not know what to do! It looked like the neighbors were out, since their car was not in the driveway.

So she grabbed the messy creature, took it inside and gave it a sponge bath, blow dried it to make it look all fluffy again, and even combed it till the rabbit was looking as good as new – though a bit stiff! Then she snuck over into the neighbor’s backyard, opened the cage and propped the bunny up in its usual spot.

About an hour later, the neighbor came home and it wasn’t too long before this woman heard screams coming from next door.

So, trying to be appear all good-neighborly, while inwardly fearing the worst, she ran over and asked, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

Her neighbor stood there, shaking with fear! “Our rabbit! Our rabbit!” she said. “He died last week! We buried him, and look! He’s back!”

Resurrection can be frightening. Who expects to see the dead walking among us again?

We do not see the risen Lord walking among us today – not like Thomas did. But we still rejoice and celebrate and, yes, even, laugh!

Our reading from First Peter stated: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

And sometimes this joy makes us laugh out loud. Because God is so very good.

Amen.

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