“’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.’ 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.’” John 20:25 and 29.
The week after Easter our synod holds a “Spring Theological” conference, which is a time for rostered leaders to renew and revive after the Lenten season, Holy Week and the Celebration of the Resurrection. This year the conference was held in Deadwood, and among the various activities, sessions and topics to discuss, there was an option to visit the Sandford Underground Research Facility (SURF), as well as hear speakers from that facility. One of the interesting things that I learned while listening to the SURF educators is that we only see and experience about 4% of the universe. The rest, the other 96%, is composed of matter that we do not see or feel or sense. This matter is called dark energy or dark matter, and it does not react with light or other types of matter with which we are familiar. The research being done is fascinating and reminds us that there is much more to our universe than what we see. In keeping with this learning option, the theme of the conference was “Witnessing the Unseen.”
The theme of the conference also tied in with the gospel of John that is often read the week after our Easter celebration. In that gospel reading, the apostle named Thomas refuses to believe that Jesus has been resurrected unless Thomas sees the body of Jesus and touches the scars of crucifixion. Thomas, in his failure to believe, in his thinking that he needs some visible proof, is perhaps a lot like us. We often want to tell ourselves, “If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” We like to think that what we receive is due to our efforts, our capabilities.
Jesus comes to the apostles gathered behind closed doors, and, as our bishop stated in her closing conference message, Jesus does what Jesus does: he shows up behind closed doors, behind closed hearts and behind closed minds. Jesus gave a word of grace and mercy when he said to those apostles, “Peace be with you.” Thomas was able to make a confession, saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
This confession of Thomas was due, not to seeing something, but rather due to what he heard: the words of Jesus giving Thomas peace. Thomas was saved, not by what he saw, but by what he heard. Thomas heard that Jesus gives peace through his promise to forgive and to claim: the same promise given to us in our baptism. What a peace we receive, not through what we do but rather through what is given us: the word and promise of Jesus! What an Easter blessing!
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