April 27, 2014
Christ is Risen!
These are the most exciting words ever spoken! It means we get to live forever. It means we not captive to death. It means those who have gone before us are still live.
Do you believe it? Is it sometimes difficult to believe? What if you saw it happen, would that help? On this, the Sunday of St. Thomas, we hear Christ’s words, “Blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe!”
St. Thomas gets a bad rap for that moment of disbelief, when he tells his friends, unless I see, I will not believe. It’s somewhat unfair for us to come down so hard on him. All of the disciples had a really really rough week. Imagine how tired and defeated they must have felt. Besides, the rest of the apostles saw the Risen Christ. Why then wouldn’t St. Thomas want to see him too?
Too often we think of St. Thomas as the doubter, but what he really wanted was the experience of seeing the risen Lord. The experience of seeing and touching his Living God. Even we get to taste and feel Christ in Communion that we partake of during the divine liturgy!
Blessed indeed are those who do not see and yet believe for they do not have to endure the anguish that the apostle Thomas must have felt when, in his defeat had a need to see.
If you’re on facebook or various internet sites, an extremely common article headline you might read ends with, “But what he did next will blow you away.” Today’s headline in the Jerusalem post 2000 years ago could read that too. “St. Thomas Sees the Risen Lord, What He Did Next Will Blow You Away!” What did he do? He proclaimed, “My Lord and My God!” but it didn’t end there. He traveled further than any other apostle, all the way to India to spread the news to those who were unable to see. Today there are many Christian churches in India that have his name. He shared his experience with all he met. He saw the eternal life that had been given to the world and lived for it, and helped others live for it to.
At one point, St. Thomas was brought to the King of India, Gundaphar and charged with the job of building him a great palace. The king gave Thomas a ton of money to build with and asked him from time to time how the project was coming a long. St. Thomas replied by saying, “It’s coming a long beautifully, keep supplying money.” Word finally got back to Gundaphar that Thomas was giving all the money to the poor. So King Gundaphar, furiously questioned St. Thomas who replied, your palace is not on earth, it is being built for you in heaven. Immediately St. Thomas was thrown in prison. Later that evening, the King’s brother who had recently died came to him in a dream and said, “Your palace here in heaven is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!” The next morning, King Gundaphar released St. Thomas and devoted himself to Christ.
At the moment when Christ appeared to St. Thomas, St. Thomas knew how real eternal life is. And that’s what he lived for - the eternal life, not the temporal one. And every ounce of his being was dedicated to God.
He believed so much, that he was willing to die for Christ. And while in India, a tribal leader had him executed with a spear.
How does one respond to that? He lived for Christ and was killed for it. There is only one appropriate response. Christ is Risen!
People believe or don’t believe, love or hate Christianity based on what? Their experience with Christians. Experience, more than words direct people to the eternal truth that is Christ Jesus. What experience are we giving others?
At this time of year especially, the experience should be one of joy. Hans Christian Andersen, the 19th century Danish author and poet, once visited Greece during Holy Week and Pascha. This is what he witnessed:
"’Christ is risen!’ burst from every tongue. Kettle-drums and trumpets sent forth their strains; the music played the liveliest dances! The whole people fell on each other’s necks, kissed, and joyously cried, ‘Christ is risen!’ Shot after shot was heard outside; rockets darted into the air, torches were lit, men and young lads, each with a candle in his hand, danced in a long row through the city. The women kindled fires, slaughtered lambs, and roasted them in the streets. Little children, who had all got a new fez and new red shoes, danced in their shirts around the fires, kissed each other, and exclaimed like their parents, ‘Christ is risen!’ O, I could have pressed each of these children to my heart and exulted with them. ‘Christ is risen!’ It was touching, elevating, and beautiful.
It may be said that the whole was a ceremony; and it may be added, certainly with some truth, that their rejoicings expressed the satisfaction of the people that the rigorous fast was over, and that now they could eat their lamb, and drink their wine: well, admit that the fact was so, still I dare venture to say there was something more; there was a true, a sincere religious jubilee. Christ was in their thoughts, as on their lips. ‘Christ is risen!’ was the mutual assurance, made as though it were no by-gone event; no, it was as if it had taken place on that night, and in this land. It was as if the assurance had reached their ears at that moment, and for the first time.”
Do you believe it? That it’s as true 2000 years ago as it is today? And that it means as much? I challenge you to really keep greeting one another with Christ is Risen for the full forty days until Ascension. Keep that joy in your heart. When you stub your toe, “Christ is Risen!” When you’re waiting in line, “Christ is Risen!” When your co-worker, child, parent, friend, stranger drives you crazy, “Christ is Risen.” When someone dies, “Christ is Risen!” And because of that, we too will all rise with him! And the others around you, experiencing your joy and hope in the resurrection may believe too. Believe it!
Christ is Risen!