Sermon – 04-23-17 – Easter II – Cycle A
Scripture: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Sermon Title: “Full of Gladness”
Are you? Are you full of gladness? Am I full of gladness? Should it be our goal? If we say we are Christians, should we be full of gladness?
Is anyone full of gladness? David, the psalmist, the shepherd boy, the king, writes to the Lord in Psalm 16:8-11 (CEV), “I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay. You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.”
The New Revised Standard Version writes it this way as repeated by Peter in Acts 2:28, “You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
Diving into the collection of Psalms is a deep experience. If we are actually diving, we will need oxygen equipment. Breathing tends to stop when we realize the levels of writing and understanding. There is the surface level – what seems to be said. Going a bit deeper, our minds go on alert. We say to ourselves, “Who is speaking here? To whom is this person speaking? Is this a time machine?
David, the psalmist, the shepherd boy, the king, the prophet, is acknowledged as the author of many of the Psalms. How can David be talking about the future; hundreds of years future – wait! David is confusing the tenses. Does David have two Lords? David refers to himself sitting on the right hand of his Lord. Is he talking God or is he talking just to Jesus? Is he putting words in the mouth of Jesus? Jesus is not yet human when David lives on earth.
But, David knows. God assures David that from David’s descendants will come the Messiah. David’s Lord, from past time and all time, promises that David will have a descendant who will be David’s Lord. This descendant will be David’s Savior. Only David? No! Our Savior also. Your Savior also. The addicted person’s Savior. The abuser’s Savior. Whoever wants to be saved can be saved through Jesus.
This is the David who is full of gladness. What does that do for you and me? We are not aware that anyone in our generation will be the ancestor of someone who will be our Savior. Then again it depends on how broadly we paint the word “savior.” Sometimes when we least expect, one of our children or grandchildren, or on and on, will change our lives by a word or a deed or a contribution to the condition of all humankind. So many earthly matters can be made better by the passion and knowledge of our descendants. But when laid before God, the ultimate saving is done through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, descendant of David.
Then about this gladness, how do we get it? Do we train for it? Can we buy it? Do we beg for it? Can we chase it as we may do to catch a butterfly or a run-away pony? Should we chase it as police chase an offender of some sort? What happens when we chase? The attempt to capture something intangible, something elusive, usually ends in failure. Rather, being still, holding conversation with God will find the sought-after feeling approaching us from the back, settling on our shoulders with a cheerful “hello there.” So it is with gladness! If our nature makes sitting still unlikely, we may go about our tasks, our planning, our housework, our teaching, even the restoration of our bodies in sleep. Before we know it, there is a song in our heads and hearts, our surroundings look lighter. Gladness has arrived! Thank God.
1 Peter 1:3-9 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
3 Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on. 4 God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear.
5 You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do. 6 On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. 7 Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns.
8 You have never seen Jesus, and you don’t see him now. But still you love him and have faith in him, and no words can tell how glad and happy 9 you are to be saved. That’s why you have faith.
Faith! Belief! Believing what we cannot see! We want to see, we want to have proof before we trust. Thomas is no exception even if he is a disciple. John and Peter needed to see. They ran to see the empty tomb. Disciples of this man Jesus are gathered in a locked room after the crucifixion. Fearful for their own safety. Heartbroken in their disappointment. These disciples feel betrayed. They had sacrificed their livelihoods when Jesus beckoned with “Follow me.”
Then Jesus appears despite the locked door – just appears. Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them his pierced hands and side. Jesus says more. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon these gathered individuals who come to accept that this is their Jesus, not an imposter or a vision.
But, Thomas, one of the twelve, is not present. When told by the other disciples whom he had missed, Thomas said, “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 has time to catch another gathering in the locked room when Thomas is present. Thomas is invited to place his hands in the hands of Jesus to feel and see the wounds. He is invited to place his hands in the wound in the side of Jesus! Thomas believes. “My Lord and my God,” he says.
Jesus declares, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Returning to David, centuries earlier, we find him saying to his Lord and our Lord, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Do you yearn for this joy, this gladness? Just say, “I believe, Lord.”