II SUNDAY of EASTER: Thomas Sunday, Low Sunday
Acts 2:14a, 22-32; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Thomas’ Doubt, Guercino (Italian), early 1600s, oil on canvas, Residenzgalerie Salzburg Austria
Low Sunday is so named because the opening sentences of the service in Latin started with the word laudes, “praise.” After Holy Week, attendance usually slumps a bit. But there’s no down to aim for right now, though–Easter morning was the smallest Sunday attendance I can find in our entire history, although I haven’t gone all the way back into the 1800s quite yet. But from 1913 to today, not even blinding snowstorms had such a dramatic effect on emptying pews as your sacrificial act of self-quarantining. Thanks, everyone! Fortunately, so many of you picked up communion-to-go in Holy Week that, even if only one person in the house partook on Easter (which we all know doesn’t apply to each and every house), we would have had the highest single service communion on record, nudging out last year’s Easter celebration of our 150th anniversary by about 25. How does one write that in the records? (Attendance 5, communion 346–in 100 years, some poor parish historian is going to have trouble working that out in her head.)
So, moving on…Thomas. All he wants is what everyone else got. The claims are outrageous, after all. And the people claiming to know what’s what have been huddled in a room talking to themselves while he’s been out, going to work, doing the shopping, and taking all the risks. Sound familiar? I got on the receiving end of a rant about this disease this week from a friend who’s been locked up in an apartment on the Coast for six weeks, watching way too much news and reading way too many FB posts. S/he “knows” what causes it, where it started, “who” is “behind” all this. Meanwhile, the stocker at WalMart and the nursing assistant at St Luke’s I talked to were too exhausted from their endless days to much care about stuff like that. Thomas, the one and only apostle with the backbone to get out and do anything, is fed up with his compatriots sitting around working themselves into a lather. And so it’s not really surprising that he wants what they got. “That bunch of cowards got a vision and all I got was stuck with the bill for Peter’s take-out Chinese, Philip’s prescription and Nathanael’s gluten-free matzos? Sure, right, that’s how it’s going to go down: God coddling the whiners and leaving us hard-working blue-collar apostles out in the cold.”
So I can empathize with Thomas. All he wants is his fair share of comfort and understanding. And here’s the thing: God grants that. Sure, Thomas comes off as a bit of a contrarian, and Jesus does say that it’s more blessed not to insist on proof, but Thomas gets what he needs. Jesus shows up for him. And somewhere, in all this hand-wringing and questioning, Jesus is showing up for us too. There’s a line in “Bruce Almighty,” which is not generally my go-to source for theological insight, but which we should remember as we look for answers right now. Because God is giving us answers, if we’re looking for them. Here goes, straight from the mouth of Morgan Freeman, after He goes Red Sea on Bruce’s lunch: “Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce. It’s a magic trick. A single mom who’s working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager who says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle. People want me to do everything for them. But what they don’t realize is *they* have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.” All around you, people are being the miracle. You are being the miracle. And that, friends, is what we need to be watching. Less news, less social media, more of God showing up in the faces and hands and tired aching backs of the people around us, the people who are–hopefully–looking back at us in the mirror.