The Word This Weekend – April 23, 2017
“Easter for ‘Scrooges’”
The Rev. Dr. William L. Hurst
FLCS Senior Pastor
Now Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came (on that first Sunday night). 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." (John 20:24-25)
"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it.” (Charles Dickens, a Christmas Carol)
It’s still Easter, my friends – we haven’t missed it! This Fifty Day season of celebration of the resurrection of Christ extends through April and May this year, right up to the Day of Pentecost on June 4th. And on the Second Sunday of Easter each year we consider the story of Thomas, that disciple who is absent on the night of Christ’s first appearing to his stunned and grief-stricken community in that upper room long ago.
So what does this have to do with Ebenezer Scrooge, and with Christmas -- for heaven’s sake?
Well, think about it for a minute. Old Scrooge, Victorian London’s most famous coldhearted curmudgeon, didn’t start out that way. Charles Dickens’ masterful profile of this sad, vicious old cur spins the tale of a series of disappointments and disillusionments that create this shrunken soul, sick of the world and its denizens, and determined not to give his heart over again to the hope of Christmas.
That’s Thomas too, dear friends – a Scrooge not for Christmas, but for the message and promise of the Empty Tomb. We make a mistake when we relegate this disciple to his moniker of “Doubter.” Because this rock-ribbed defender of the Nazarene, strong when others are weak, determined when others have grown weak-kneed, courageous and vocal when others fall silent in their frailty and disbelief – seems to pivot from fervent faith to angry disbelief, speaking vehemently that Easter may have come to everyone else, but not to him.
Why? Well, it seems, according to John’s Gospel, that Thomas was out of the room when the Christ showed up on that first night of the Resurrection event. Everyone else sees Christ, touches him, hears his words of peace and promise. Why not Thomas? Well, we don’t know for sure, but my private theory is that he just simply tired of hanging around with the tearful and fearful collection of failed disciples huddled in terror in that locked upper room. Or maybe he just went out for pita and hummus while the rest hunkered down to hide out from their enemies, the same foes who had consigned their Master to the abuse and destitution of the Cross. Whatever the reason, he missed it. Missed it all. Missed Easter. Just like crusty and bitter old Ebenezer had missed the joy of Christmas.
For a week. A whole week of hearing his friends proclaim, “He came to us! Anointed us with the Spirit! Gave us a mission to embrace and absolve a sin sick world! You should’ve been there!!!”
But he wasn’t. As Scrooge missed the joy and hope of Christmases past, present and future, so Thomas stands alone and isolated from the joy of new life, new purpose, new hope. For an entire week.
Till Christ shows up, a week later, and just for him. “Put ‘er there, Thomas. See me, feel me, touch me” – Like the Who’s Tommy, like spirit-surrounded Ebenezer, so Thomas the Twin is bidden by Christ to an Easter delayed, but not an Easter withheld.
“It’s Easter Day! I haven’t missed it!” So says Thomas, fingers tracing the ragged wounds of hands stapled to crossbeam, hand wrenched up into the riven side which flowed. And more, he says, “My Lord, and my God!” So, while others may have gotten a head start on the joy of the Resurrection, for Thomas it becomes a revelation of the world made new, just for him, at long last.
And that’s my hope for you and me as this Eastertide presses on – that we’ll discover the Risen Christ meeting us face to face, wound to wound, transforming all of life’s bitterness and disappointments, hopes unmet and dreams unfulfilled. Easter in the wounds, eternity in the maw of death. Just like old Scrooge, and just like Thomas. An Easter just for us.
We haven’t missed it. And if we’ll only dare to touch, to see and to believe, and to rise to share our personal Easter with others, they won’t miss it either.
With You in God’s Good Work,