April 3, 2016 - 2nd Sunday in Easter - The Theology of Showing Up

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Isn't it great to cry out our Alleluias again? Easter is this wonderful, celebratory time. It's the most celebratory time of the year for us as Christians. Now, I know what you are thinking, "What about Christmas?" Remember: Christmas is only 12 days long; we get 50 whole days of Easter. 50 days. So, when you see that half-off candy at the grocery store, buy it! It’s still Easter! And the candy is still tasty! And completely liturgically appropriate to enjoy it because we have 43 days of Easter left.

But oddly enough, our joyful celebration does not parallel or mirror the experience of the disciples on the first Easter. They were not yet shouting or singing Alleluia. They were not yet excited about what had happened. We heard that reality last week in Gospel reading when we heard of Mary Magdalene sad and confused when she found the tomb empty. She was the first to encounter Jesus raised from the dead, and she became the Apostle to the Apostles because Jesus commissioned her to tell the others, but they didn't believe her. Luke says that they considered it an idle tale. I suspect we can all read between the lines on what that is supposed to mean. And we again hear of disciples not yet filled with Easter joy in our Gospel today when we find them huddled together in fear, fear that is so counter to the Good News of resurrection, of Easter. Fear that isn't resolved even after they first encountered Jesus risen, for we find them again locking themselves in a week later.

I would like to think that they weren't yet filled with joy because they are still trying to figure it all out, but if we are honest with ourselves, aren't we still trying to figure it all out, too? Do we really recognize that much better than Mary when Jesus is in our midst? Do we really have that much less fear than the other disciples even though we, too, have seen the vanquishing of death? We really aren't that much different than those early disciples. Many of us still find the resurrection something that raises as many questions as it answers. Many of us still have difficulty seeing Jesus, even when he is right in front of us, in a stranger, in a child, in bread, in wine. Many of us still lock ourselves into rooms out of fear. Many of us still find ourselves, from time to time at least, asking God if we couldn't just have a little more clarity, couldn't just see a little more concretely. We are not that much different from the first disciples. We are quite similar, in fact, to Mary and Peter and John and Thomas, and the rest of the gang.

But the one thing that we have figured out is that this resurrection, Jesus' resurrection, is a good thing, a joyful thing, a thing that draws out our Alleluias. Through the generations, Christians have found their joy in Christ's resurrection… even as they were still are trying to figure it all out; even as we are still trying to figure it all out. That is what the Thomas story so importantly teaches us. We can take the time to figure it out. We can still have questions and doubts and faith at the same time. We just have to keep showing up and trying.

Thomas' questions, doubts, fears, didn't keep him from showing up to that room with the other disciples. It was his very questions that drew him in. And it was in that showing up that he encountered Jesus. One of the details that I love about this story is that Thomas didn't even do what he said he had to do in order to believe. He said that he would have to put his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in the side. But when Jesus offered just that, the story doesn't say that he took Jesus up on the offer. Carvaggio got it wrong in the painting! Instead, Thomas simply blurted out "My Lord and My God." The offer was sufficient. He didn't have to experience what he thought he had to experience. But even that required showing up, to be there in the room with the other disciples, to be there with the other folks who were all just trying to figure it out.

90% of life is showing up, the old saying goes. And that is about right. We gotta keep showing up.  Showing up when we have doubts and when we don't. Showing up when we are confident and when we are afraid. Showing up when we are sorrowful and when we are filled with joy. I call this the Theology of Showing Up. It’s not the most intellectually rigorous of theologies. It is quite simple, but also quite important. We have to keep showing up like Thomas. Not because we have it all figured out, but precisely because we don't. Not in spite of our questions, but because of our questions. For in showing up, we can encounter Jesus. This is good news. This is very good news. This is joyful news. We can encounter Jesus. Like Mary, like the other disciples. If we just keep showing up. Showing up to the tomb, to life's death, where we can find Christ raised. Showing up to the locked room, to life's fear and anxiety, where we can receive Christ’s Peace.  Showing up to the table, to life's hunger where we can be nourished by Christ's Body. My friends in Christ: Just keep showing up. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!