Moses Sermon Starter

Thomas May Not be What You Think


What are you afraid of? On that first Easter evening the disciples were afraid of everything. Jesus was dead and gone; the body had even been removed from the tomb. They were afraid for their lives. They were at a loss. They were so afraid that they had locked themselves in a room. Was it the same upper room that Jesus had made sacred a few days before? It doesn’t matter. They were locked in and the world was locked out. They had to figure out what to do next. Where to go. Whom to trust. And then everything got weird.

Thomas was brave enough to venture out into the world. Was he fearless or did some need conquer his fear? Or was he so lost in his grief that he did not care what happened to him? We don’t know why he was out, but he was. The Risen Christ happened to walk in on a fear-filled room to breathe peace to them. What a gift! Well, for everyone except Thomas.

When Thomas returned to the locked room, the others told him that Jesus had been there and breathed peace into their fear. Thomas may have had his doubts, but so did the rest of them. Thomas hadn’t been there to see Jesus, to hear his words, or feel the power of the wounds, or inhale the breath of peace. He had a good excuse to be in that room a week later. But what about the ones who had been there the first time Jesus walked into that locked room? Why were they still huddled there a week later? Did they all hold their breath so they didn’t breathe deeply of the peace that Jesus tried to breathe onto them, into them? What held them in that locked room a full week later?

I suppose we shouldn’t be too hard on them. Grief is paralyzing sometimes. So is fear. They were at risk of being crucified for treason and blasphemy just as Jesus had been. I’m not sure how far out of that room I would have ventured, either. I know what if feels like to be held captive by fear, though. Fear shrinks all possibilities into one bottomless pit that threatens to swallow anyone who dares to move. Fear is contagious enough to hold ten people captive in a small locked room for a lot longer than a week. Fear can certainly hinder the breath of peace from doing its work. The Risen Christ had some work to do on everyone there, except maybe Thomas. After all, Thomas didn’t actually need to touch anything to believe what he saw when Jesus returned. He was convinced just on sight and sound. Was that because he was not bound to that room by the fear of all that could happen, all that might happen if the doors were unlocked?

What are you afraid of? Me? I’m afraid that I won’t be able to communicate this urgency for the church to change that I am feeling so deeply. Even though I ask God not to pester me with visions and calls and messages during Holy Week because I am busy enough, God seldom listens. Part way through Holy Week the vision I had been avoiding and the call I was trying not to hear, became unavoidable. I couldn’t lock the doors or pull the shades any longer. God had something to say to me, reluctant prophet though I may be.

Church, we have been hunkered down in locked rooms for far too long. So long, in fact, that we are dying for want of a few Thomases who are willing to go outside and experience what’s happening out there. We are dying because we are held captive by fear, fear that distorts our understanding and prevents us from breathing in the peace Jesus intends for us. Nothing we are doing right now is worth dying for. Seriously, the Body of Christ can’t really want to breathe its last over some stained glass or a pew or the grasp we have on yesterday. Fear is choking the life out of us.
What do we need to let go of so we can breathe deeply once again? Our buildings? Our denominational ties? Our sense of (self)righteousness? Our worship of the Bible? Our certainty that we are right? What would happen to us if we took a slow, tentative breath of peace? Would fear loosen its grip on us? Would we be able to envision an ecumenical community where grace abounds and fear is a thing of the past? Would we be able to move out of our crumbling buildings into a community space that is used 24/7? Would we be able to adjust our worship practices to include language, music, theology that speaks to those who are seeking meaning today?

It’s time to unlock the doors, take a risk with Thomas, breathe deeply of the Holy Spirit, and live into this new shape of Resurrection. Let’s do this before we entirely forget how to embody Christ in a way that brings liberation to all (no exceptions). Bound by fear is no way for anyone to live, particularly the Body of Christ. Let’s take a deep breath and see what is possible…

For other sermon thoughts try here.

RCL – Year C – Second of Easter – April 28, 2019
Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

Photo: CC0 image by Orlando

Emerging Church Moses Prayer

Praying the Ten Commandments

Voice 1:          Then God spoke all these words:  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Voice 2:          Your people yearn for your voice! The ancient stories fade from our memories along with a sense of your nearness. It is so easy to worship gods of our making and believe that they will strengthen us.
All:                  Forgive us for the shallowness of our faith. Forgive us when we worship our small gods of money, success, power, drugs, sex, self-hatred or whatever turns our hearts from you. Remind us that you are the God who saves, who strengthens, who loves us without end.

Voice 1:          You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Voice 2:          May your name be praised at the rising of the sun and it’s setting! How easily words tumble from our lips with so little attention given them. We have forgotten that words have power to hurt or to heal, and that some words are have sacred meaning.
All:                   Forgive us for letting the power of your name be forgotten. Forgive us for using words to bring pain to you, to our neighbors, and to ourselves. Remind us that you are the Word who lived among us that we might have life abundantly.

Voice 1:          Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Voice 2:          In your wisdom, you made the sabbath for us. You knew that we would forget to rest, to take time to be still with you. How foolish we are to try to live without time to rest in you.
All:                  Forgive us for our foolish ways. We work too hard. Over-schedule ourselves and can barely take an hour to worship you. Remind us of the rest and renewal that comes from time spent being still and knowing that you are God.

Voice 1:          Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Voice 2:          We give you thanks for those who can honor their parents without hesitation. At the same time we pray for those who have difficult relationships with their parents, for those children who are lost in the world of addiction or illness and cannot honor their parents, and for those children who have no parents.
All:                Forgive us when we fail to honor our elders. Forgive us when we fail to reach beyond our own families and into the community to extend care, compassion, and love to those fathers and mothers who are alone in the world. Remind us that you created us to be in relationship to one another and to care for those in need.

Voice 1:          You shall not murder.
Voice 2:         All people of the earth are created in your image and you have called us to love one another. While murder may seem far from our daily living, there are those among us whose loved ones have been murdered, and those whose loved ones have committed murder. Yet we often remain silent in the face of violence in our world, in our country, in our community, in our homes.
All:                 Forgive us when we fail to see you in the face of another. Forgive us when we choose what is over what could be. Remind us that you are the one who gives peace, peace that brings hope, healing, and life for all your people.

Voice 1:          You shall not commit adultery.
Voice 2:          You shaped us and breathed life into us. You desire for us to live in loving relationships and for some this is celebrated in marriage. Society makes it easy for us to believe that marriage and other relationships are not sacred and that we may do as we desire.
All:                  Forgive us when we fail to see you in our relationships, when we do not treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Forgive us also for those times when we make harsh judgements about those whose failures become public. Remind us that you call us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to live lives of respect, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness.

Voice 1:          You shall not steal.
Voice 2:          You know us more deeply than we know ourselves, knowing our needs and our wants. Sometimes the world seems so unfair and we entertain the impulse to take what is now ours. Others feel they have no choice but to steal in order to survive.
All:                  Forgive us for those moments when we take what we do not need. Forgive us for not feeding those who are hungry, leaving them little choice but to steal in order to feed themselves or their children. Remind us that those you have blessed with more are the ones whom you have asked to bless others.

Voice 1:          You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Voice 2:          Your wisdom displays our foolishness so clearly! We are ruled by our emotions so very often, letting petty differences ruin relationships. From the time of Eve we have struggled with taking responsibility rather than placing blame.
All:                  Forgive us for those moments when our neighbor seems to be our enemy. Forgive us for those times when we let fear or anger determine our actions, causing pain to another. Remind us that you have given us a spirit of self-control and a call to live in love.

Voice 1:          You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Voice 2:          How well you know the human heart! You know how difficult it can be for us to be content with what we have and how easy it is for us to believe that what others have is far better than what we have.
All:                  Forgive us for all the times we want what others have and fail to give you thanks for what we do have. Remind us that our value is in who we are, whose we are, and not in what we possess.

Voice 1:          When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”
Voice 2:          Long ago you gave these commandments to your people because you knew the challenges they would face. You also knew their desire was to love and serve you even when they fell short. Not much has changed in human nature in the thousands of years since.
All:                  Forgive us when we think we can get through life on our own, having no need of you. Forgive us when we forget that you desire only good things for us and our own choices often get in the way of that goodness. Remind us of your power and presence, your loving-kindness, and your steadfast love which endures forever. Amen.

2014-09-27 13.48.36

RCL – Year A – Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 5, 2014
Psalm 19 or
Isaiah 5:1-7 with Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46