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Acts 4:32-35 NRSV The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
1 John 1:1-2:2 New Revised Standard Version The Word of Life
1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.
God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Christ Our Advocate
2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John 20:19-31 NRSV Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
A neighbor asked Joseph of Arimathea why he gave his beautiful hand-hewn tomb to someone else. Joseph replied, “Well, he only needed it for the weekend.”
Beyond the shadow of a doubt
11 April 2021
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
The trial of Officer Derek Chauvin is now under way. Charged with 2nd degree unintentional murder, 2nd degree manslaughter & 3rd degree murder for Floyd’s death in May 2020. Unlike sensational trials of the past for people like the Marathon bomber who reeked terror 8 years ago this month, there is no death sentence penalty on the table for these charges. And yet the frightening misuse of force and power has brought many people to their feet in protest.
A jury will be asked to come to a verdict. In the courtroom the phrase is: “Beyond a reasonable doubt”
Beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jesus was dead Friday night when they laid Him in the tomb. He had been crucified and he had been stabbed in the side, bleeding out his life blood.
In the American court system the prosecution must prove their accusations to the extent that there could be no “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a “reasonable person” that the defendant is guilty. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person’s belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.
“The shadow of a doubt” is sometimes used interchangeably with reasonable doubt, but this extends beyond the latter, to the extent that it may be considered an impossible standard. The term “reasonable doubt” is therefore used.
Last Sunday we had an uplifting service celebrating faith in Christ and in the resurrection. We read the story of how Christ rose again, and appeared to those he loved, and how the message that God’s love still lived- began to spread.
It’s hard to leave church on Easter morning and not feel some sense of joy, and some sense of faith. I leave Easter services, on a sort of “faith high,” don’t you? I feel surrounded by witnesses to God’s love, and this time of year I feel particularly close to God. Lent is over, and joy has filled the church.
So, we come back to church this week, and we expect the hard stuff to be over. Except that’s not exactly what we get.
We read today that starting on that first Easter, after the angel has told Mary that Jesus will go ahead of them to Jerusalem… suddenly Jesus appears, despite the locked doors in the room where they are hiding from the authorities. They can see the wounds in his hands and his side. And he says “peace be with you”. And they believe – Beyond the shadow of a doubt!
But one disciple was missing. Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus came back. Maybe he was at the store. Maybe he was running late after work. Maybe he was stuck in traffic. For whatever reason, Thomas arrives and all the other disciples tell him Jesus was just here. I’ll bet they even said to him something like, “Thomas, you won’t believe this!”
And he doesn’t. Thomas tells them, “Unless I see it for myself, and can touch his wounds, I won’t believe.” He says in effect – I have reasonable doubts – I need proof – No one rises from the Dead! – Thomas needed to know Jesus was Lord and not – as he had been accused of – an impostor and a delusional blasphemer.
And that is where the 21st Century person is… surrounded by a litigation culture and a “reasonable” criteria, we are living between “what we can get away with” and “scientific hypotheses.” Also known as “repeatable experiments” and “educated guesses.” Everything is open to revision on the basis of further proof.
Faith in things unseen is not a popular notion… it is likely to go against the cultural expectations. Instead of “in God we trust” we live in a world of “reasonable expectations” and “power politics”
And yet Jesus says to Thomas – “Blessed are those who do not see yet believe!”
Perhaps, Jesus is urging us to develop our other senses. His incarnation in this physical world was dominated by and limited to the senses we commonly employ for “knowing” our surroundings. Sight, Hearing, touch, taste and smell. But we know that people who have lost the use of one or more of these senses have the ability to access other ways of knowing their surroundings and negotiate a meaningful relationship to others and the environment.
Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit – God with us- is active in this world even though we cannot take the spirits’ picture or record the spirit’s voice – we are the people of God who are challenged to use our spiritual gifts to understand God is still actively engaged with the world and bringing salvation – liberation to the captives, healing to the broken and ill and power to the powerless. God is still interested in JUSTICE.
The disciples gave their very lives because they were convinced “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that Jesus’ teachings were important and that Jesus was indeed the Christ – even though His Kingdom was not of this world and they were not immediately enthroned in his palace!
Reasonable doubt is a human criteria – something we try to use to our advantage in negotiating reality – but when reason alone dominates our decisions – we are limited indeed to the courtroom of human control and shut out of the power of Faith in things unseen.
In Matthew 5:25 Jesus taught “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
Imagine how that might work in the issues of the day. What if we could create a system that was not based on class, prejudice, race, sexism, before we meet in court and someone has to face prison.
The prisons we build for ourselves are placed on a cornerstone of faith in reason alone, rather than faith in the Christ who is the preordained cornerstone of a Kingdom of Peace and Justice. The only way to move beyond a reasonable doubt to a position beyond the shadow of a doubt about what we will do and who we are meant to be in God’s plan is to commit ourselves anew to a relationship with the Christ – our personal Lord and Savior….