“Recognition”

John 20:19-31

April 11, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

| Centering Prayer |

For a seven-year period

The bishop appointed me ‘beyond the local church’

To serve as the Director of Education for the Alzheimer’s Association.

I learned much about neurodegenerative diseases and how to care for people experiencing these devastating illnesses.

My staff and I taught professionals and family loved ones,

Throughout an eleven-county area.

We taught in nursing homes, group homes, churches, day programs, and firehouses.

We taught professional and lay care partners alike

How to care for people with dignity and respect regarding history, respect, culture, religion, core values, safety, and love.

The pathology and progression of a neurodegenerative disease,

Such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or ALS,

Correlates with a change in behaviors and the ability to communicate.

When the region of the brain that controls short-term memory is impaired,

We taught the value of routine: Establish a routine, maintain a routine, and God help those who disrupt the routine!

The value of getting in a rut is that you know where you are going.

As we age, many of us fear the loss of memory or recognition.

The normal slide, starting in our twenties, is called ‘Age Associated Memory Impairment,’ or AAMI.

It’s normal to experience a gentle, gradual, decline of cognitive ability.

A neurodegenerative disease is a sharp deviation from normal and not in a good way.

How does one tell the difference?

I run into a familiar person in public.

I look at their face, but I draw a blank.

It is even more difficult in this pandemic season when everyone is wearing a mask.

“What is his or her name?” I ask myself,

Hoping not to embarrass myself if caught in my failure to recognize.

Researchers and doctors taught us to teach you to perseverate.

Rack your brain for the next 24-hours.

Try to remember.

If you eventually remember, that’s generally a good sign that you can probably wait to report this to your doctor at your next regular appointment.

If, however, after a day of trying to put together a face and a name and you just can’t remember, call your doctor, make an appointment, and inform your doctor of your memory concerns.

You’re welcome.

Recognition.

I raise your awareness about recognition

Because of the difficultly disciples of Jesus had recognizing the resurrected Christ.

Today, John reports his disciples were locked away and fearful from the crowds on the evening of the first day of the week.

Locked down. Fearful.

Everyone of us living through this horrid pandemic should understand what they were experiencing.

Last Sunday we heard about the first two witnesses to the resurrection,

John, the disciple Jesus loved, and Mary Magdalene, the one who misidentified Jesus as the gardener.

John saw the empty tomb and believed. Period.

Mary recognized Jesus when he spoke her name. Mary believed.

In a parallel sort of way, today Jesus first appears to his ten disciples

(12 minus Judas and Thomas).

When he appears he fulfills his prior promise to fill them with the power of his Holy Spirit.

Jesus then appears to a skeptical Thomas a week later, when recognition of the resurrected Lord came when Jesus showed Thomas his wounds.

The disciples witnessed Jesus materialize right before their very eyes.

He kept his promise.

He had the wounds to prove it.

Jesus was alive.

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (20:20)

Thomas, a week later, was invited to touch his wounds.

Thomas recognized the Lord, not by sight, but by examination of the laceration and puncture marks.

He recognized the Lord, with his witness and confession, “My Lord and my God!” (20:28)

Following today’s resurrection narrative, the Gospel of John reports Jesus appeared to seven of his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

They failed to recognize Jesus until he gave them a fishing tip that resulted in a miraculous catch of 153 fish. (21:11)

It took a divine miracle brought recognition to those seven disciples.

What can be learned and applied to our lives today?

1. Christian disciples are all over the spectrum between belief and doubt in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s normal.

You’re normal.

(I’d say ‘I’m normal’, but there may be some who don’t believe me).

Strength of faith does not correlate with absolute belief.

We shouldn’t judge others who express doubt as being weak or flawed.

We should be patient and love those who have normal doubts and applaud their courage to express them openly.

Likewise, I suggest you go easy on yourself if you find yourself somewhere on the spectrum sliding between absolute faith and complete doubt.

Faith is hard work, and doubt is difficult to ignore.

There is no shame or guilt for doubt, regardless of amount or duration.

I recognize doubt as the environment …

… the people, the place, the time, the circumstances …

That are necessary for you and I to have an interaction with Jesus,

To recognize ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen! Christ will come again!’

Recognition results in our confession and witness to the world

That Jesus is my Lord and my God.

2. We each have diverse motives and needs to recognize Jesus.

Each of us are different,

Shaped by our life experiences, childhood development, values, parents, and faith community (or lack, thereof).

For some, recognizing and believing in the resurrection of Jesus comes as easy as water off a duck’s back.

Others need to hear Jesus call us by name.

Others need to see his apparition.

Yet others, require the awareness of the Holy Spirit dwelling within and empowering their life.

Others, like Thomas, need to be able to physically touch Jesus to believe he is alive.

And others need a full-fledged, over-the-top, water-into-wine kind of miracle to open their eyes.

The Gospel of John recognizes the diversity of Christians

And intentionally lays out numerous ways for us to come to recognition.

Doubt is expected and is normal.

God’s grace meets us where we are at.

Grace does not require us to be a square peg pounded into a round hole of doctrine, theology, or belief.

It is by grace alone that we are drawn to that day of Christian perfection, when we, too, will recognize and proclaim, “My Lord and my God.”

3. Faith comes to those who perseverate.

How does this work?

Make your faith and commitment to follow Jesus a priority in your thoughts as you go about your day and make your way through the week.

Perseverate on Jesus;

His life,

His teachings,

His actions, behaviors, and motives,

His love,

His death and resurrection.

Recognition comes to those who perseverate about Jesus.

Facing a difficult test or paper?

Consider the role of Jesus.

He will love you regardless of the outcome.

Fail to study one subject or topic sufficiently?

Jesus is the author of forgiveness and redemption. Study harder next time, like Jesus did when he was a youth left behind at the Temple and was found learning from the Rabbis.

Knock that test out of the park and earn a top grade?

That exceptional grade is just a taste of the salvation offered by a resurrected Lord.

Recognition of the resurrected Christ comes to those who perseverate about him.

Facing the end of life?

Consider the end of Christ’s life.

Can you associate your personal suffering with his suffering, abuse, passion, and death?

He cared for his mother while on the cross.

Consider how Christ is leading you to care for your family for your eventual absence.

Think about Christ’s death, his ability to wholly and completely surrender to the will of his heavenly Father.

Carrying a heavy load of sin or regret to your grave?

Jesus paid your bill and didn’t even leave a receipt.

Atonement for sins?

His permanent scars on his hands, feet, and side

Are a reminder that atonement isn’t a one-and-done proposition.

Atonement is a moment-by-moment, ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus.

Perseverate your thoughts on Jesus.

Make him a priority in your thoughts as you face every challenge in your life.

Thinking about Jesus all the time does not turn you into a Jesus freak or a holy roller.

Thinking persistently about Jesus Christ creates a worldview that provides the opportunity to address issues of evil and suffering, trauma and pain, war and peace, righteousness and justice, healing and grace.

4. Take time to linger; hang around with Jesus.

Mary lingered outside the empty tomb.

The disciples lingered, a week later in the upper room.

Lingering around Jesus creates space for recognition to happen.

Lingering, watching, waiting is a rhythm that is like that of Advent; The season of anticipation; waiting for Jesus to be born; waiting for Christ to come again.

The God of my experience leads me to believe the day is coming when I will meet Jesus face to face.

Will I recognize him? I hope so.

I’ve been preparing for a lifetime

To grow my faith, deepen my belief, focus my life on Jesus

With the hope and prayer that I have come to recognize my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and enthusiastically witness to his name, that all may come to believe, “and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (20:31)

Are you prepared to meet Jesus face-to-face?

There is no time like the present to start making preparations.

Amen.  

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