Easter 2, C
A brief aside – I read an article last week that I wanted to share with you. In the Easter spirit of new birth, and new life, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the body which oversees the various liturgies sanctioned by the church has apparently been busy. According the article:
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has officially released a supplement to the Eucharistic rite, approved for trial use beginning on Easter Sunday, 2017. The supplement allows for the addition of fish to the usual Eucharistic elements of bread and wine.
“Jesus clearly intended not only to break bread with his disciples, but also to give them fish,” says a representative of the Commission. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus reveals himself to two disciples in the breaking of the bread and then immediately confirms his bodily resurrection to all of his disciples by consuming some broiled fish.
In John’s gospel, the Biblical description of a fish breakfast with his disciples echoes the wording of our Eucharistic prayers: “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish” (John 21:13). Since most congregations celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in the morning, the Eucharist should recall not only the Last Supper but also this First Breakfast.
Congregations may wish to use fish during particular seasons of the church year, or on special feast days. The use of fish in Jesus’ post-resurrection meals makes fish an especially appropriate addition to the Eucharist during the Easter season.
The article discussed the documents used to adjust the Eucharistic prayers, in addition to quoting one of the new prayers. The article went on to discuss some of the more practical considerations.
The Commission has also released guidelines for dealing with the practical matters of introducing fish into the Eucharist. In trial liturgies, members of the Commission observed that tuna chunks held together more firmly than some other types of fish.
Locally-raised or -caught catfish are an ideal choice for some parts of the United States. In all cases, congregations will want to consider guidelines for purchasing sustainable seafood. The Episcopal Church hopes to develop a supply chain for liturgically-appropriate fish very soon.
Members of church altar guilds should be prepared to remove fish oil stains from the altar linens very quickly. Finally, the Commission strongly recommends censing the altar immediately after setting the table for the Eucharist in order to reduce any distracting fish odors.
We may have a chance to can talk more about this next week, when we get a chance to read about that First Breakfast the article mentions.
This week, of course, we have heard about Doubting Thomas, a favorite of mine.
“Doubting Thomas” It’s traditionally said with such disdain, but let’s be realistic – a certain amount of doubt, or more positively stated “wariness” or perhaps even “healthy skepticism” is a virtue in this world – lest we be taken in by schemes, hoaxes, or pranks of whatever variety. “There’s a sucker born every minute.” according to the old P. T. Barnum (attributed) quote; and no one likes to be that sucker. So we doubt, we question, we quiz, we insist on corroboration, proof. In that we are Thomas’s twins. Without doubt, without questioning, without wondering, we’d be taken in by every huckster’s claim: we’d sell the family treasure for magic beans, we’d buy stock in water from the fountain of youth, we’d be cleaning fish oil off the fair linen after Easter service in a year. (Did I mention that the article about adding fish to the Eucharist was published on Friday – April 1st?)
The crucifixion was no April Fools joke – it was a horrific, brutal act; meant to silence the radical influence of the insurrectionist rabbi; an event from which the disciples fled for fear of joining Jesus in his grisly death. They hid behind locked doors in fear of later repercussions. A week later, Thomas with them this time, they were still hiding in that same dark room, behind the same locked doors.
Yet in the lesson from Acts today, those same disciples – who ran from Jesus, who fled from the cross, who hid trembling behind locked doors – stand indomitable in front of the judge – boldly proclaiming their faith and fealty. It is not the first time they have stood in that untenable position. It’s not even the second. Their rebellious teaching had already got them hauled up before the court with cease and desist order imposed. They persisted in their faith-filled sedition, and were jailed. Freed by an angel from prison by an angel, they could have been forgiven for high-tailing it back to that safe little anonymous room behind protective locked doors. Instead they headed right back to the temple, to preaching, and predictably back to the courts, even with the memory of the cross fresh in their psyches.
From whence came their courage and faith? What happened between the cross and the court? Jesus happened. The risen Lord happened.
Jesus came to them in the house. Came to them in their fear. Came to them in their doubt. He pushed through the walls – the walls of the house, the walls of fear. Jesus opened their locked doors, their locked hearts. He met them where they were – in their sorrow, in their guilt, in their disappointment, in their doubts. He met them and breathed upon them the spirit of peace – Shalom, peace be with you. He offered his wounded body yet again – touch my hands, feel my wound – if that is what you need.
We imagine that he rebuked Thomas for his doubt – “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”. I don’t think this is rebuke. His words are peaceful, His mangled hands outstretched – a gesture of invitation, a gesture of love, loving Thomas, loving the apostles, loving, giving. His next words are not words of rebuke, but words of blessing. Not blessing for the witnesses in the room, but blessing for the next generation and the next – a blessing for us – calling us to action just has the apostles were called.
We struggle against doubt. We want to believe, believe without qualm, able to stand bravely before the judges of the world without trepidation. We want to skip straight to certainty without living the questions. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes, “Christians are often tempted to say more than we know. We are so tempted because we fear we do not believe what we say we believe. So we try to assure ourselves that we believe what we say we believe by convincing those who do not believe that they really believe what we believe once what we believe is properly explained.” Rilke wrote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and learn to love the questions themselves”.
The Alpha and the Omega, who was and is and is to come, our Lord and our God will be there through the doubts, through the fear, through the uncertainty, in the prisons of loneliness or sorrow or apathy or anger, in the growing courage, in the peace of understanding – hands outstretched, bidding us peace, shalom; giving us life, bidding us live for the Kingdom of God. Amen.