Sunday Service - 4/15/2012 - Candice Ryals Provey
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Published on Apr 16, 2012
A service of worship in Duke University Chapel. Ms Candice Ryals Provey delivers a sermon entitled "The Way, the Truth, the Life."
Opening Excerpt from the Sermon (36:07)
It was evening the first day when the disciples gathered and Jesus came, but Thomas wasn't with them.
Imagine with me these two very different scenes:
Thomas sits alone at home as the shadows gather at dusk, turning over the events of the past week, the past year, thinking through the things he once knew to be true...
How in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it. And yet, here is Thomas, sitting in what seems to be utter darkness, wondering whether Jesus was indeed the light, the life of the world. Had God forsaken him on the cross? Abandoned Thomas, too, and Israel and her promises? Relinquished the world to its tyranny?
Meanwhile, not far away, the disciples are gathered in the glow of candlelight, when a series of remarkable events take place. First, Jesus joins them - this is remarkable enough, given that the doors are locked and just a few days earlier he had been killed, but it's just the beginning. He comes and breathes upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is an odd reference that brings to mind the way God first created humanity so long ago, how God fashioned the human form out of the mud of the earth and breathed life into its nostrils. John is signifying here a cosmic act. We know that something huge is happening, that Jesus is making the disciples alive in a new way, but we don't understand it.
Closing Excerpt from the Sermon: (46:08)
"When your personal experience, the circumstances of your life, seems to contradict the claims we make about God's love and justice and mercy, you need the community of faith to remind you about a few things. You need to know that your personal experience does not define the whole truth about God and God's will for the world, so that you can begin to locate your story and even your suffering within the larger narrative of what God is doing. You need to know that when you are hurting, anger and lament and protest are valid and appropriate responses within the life of faith, so that you can begin to give voice to your sufferings and make room for your rage. Finally, you need to know that you're not alone. This is why we gather - because the baptismal waters, the breaking of bread, are the signs through which God proclaims to us and we proclaim to each other, "You are not alone, not abandoned, God-forsaken."
This is my favorite part, one final remarkable turn of events: it is evening the first day of the week when the disciples gather, and this time Thomas is with them. The truth is Thomas didn't choose Jesus, Jesus chose him. He didn't find the Messiah, the Messiah found him. And even though Thomas does not believe, Christ still believes in him and comes to meet him. Thomas sees Christ's body, broken and yet standing whole before him, and finds that he himself, Thomas, has been restored to life. He sees Jesus and immediately testifies, "My Lord and my God!" This is what it means to believe - to tell the truth about who Jesus is, to tell the story. It was evening when the disciples gathered and Jesus came, and by the next morning, Thomas would be out in the world proclaiming the truth about Jesus to everyone he met. His story is written down so that we might also believe and testify.--So that the good news, the gospel, might spill over and spread from the mountain to the valley.
Now when you find yourself down in that valley, in a place that seems like utter darkness, and Lord knows you will, let Thomas show you the way. When you can't hope, when you can't believe, yearn to see Jesus face to face, cry out for an account from God, and gather with the community to wait.
For Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, blessed are you who have not seen and yet have come to believe. Blessed are you who have come here anyway, not believing but desperately wanting to. Blessed are you who yearn for Jesus, the light, the life of the world, to be present here, now. You, too, will see Jesus in the flesh. Blessed are you, every one of you -- not because you have chosen Christ or found the way, but because Christ has chosen you, come seeking after you to find you, and when he meets you, to enliven you with the Spirit and send you out again into the fray."
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