Predigt zu Johannes 20, 19-31; 2. Sonntag der Osterzeit – 3. April 2016 (auf englisch)


peace be with you jesus


April, April!

Who here knows this expression? It’s the German version of the gleeful shout, ‘April’s fool!’, and it’s used when someone really gets fooled or tricked on April 1st. We sometimes like to play pranks on each other; but then, of course, we have some quite elaborate news stories in honor of April Fools’ Day these days .

And I was actually trying to pay attention to made up news stories this past Friday, April 1st; however, there was no news story that seemed so outlandish that it seemed to be a prank, which may say something about the crazy and sometimes absurd times we live in – and the news stories we’ve grown accustomed to hear.

Now there are several theories why we have April 1st as April Fools’ Day. One theory involves the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in France in the 16th century and New Year’s Day on January 1; however, many folks stuck to the ancient custom of celebrating the New Year in the spring, sometime between March 25 and April 1 – and those folks were laughed upon as ‘April’s fools’.

But there are precursors of April Fools’ Day, which go back to the Roman Empire and even ancient India – one specific day a year to pray pranks and have a good laugh.

In any case, what April Fools’ today usually is about is to make people believe in a hoax. A story that is too fantastic or too absurd to be true. And sometimes, we want to believe in such a story; but then there are times when our common sense just tells us that it can’t be. And, fortunately, God has given us a brain, and wisdom, to separate reality from bogus stories, and to think critically. We don’t need to believe just anything, and we don’t need to fall for everything. And in that sense, the baptismal verse you, M. and J., chose for K. expresses the wish that he, along his path of life, may not easily fall for the wrong and foolish things. And so we hear these admonishing words from Proverbs: Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her (that is, wisdom), and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.’ (Proverbs 4:5-6)

And, by the way, wisdom is so much more than knowledge. Wisdom also includes the life experience we gather, and to make our decisions according to our experiences. As a bike rider, I know all the traffic rules, but I am wise enough not to insist on my right of way when a car is about to hit me. So may K. be surrounded by the love of God and God’s wisdom as he will be making decisions for his life.

Last week, on Easter Sunday, we heard the story of Jesus’ resurrection. The women, who come to Jesus’ tomb to embalm the body, are greeted by messengers in dazzling garments, telling them to remember – to remember what Jesus told his followers about his fate all along. And the women remember, and they believe, and rush to tell his remaining disciples. Who think this is an idle story, too good to be true, unbelievable. They think those women are trying to fool them. And who likes to be fooled?

And this is exactly where today’s gospel story continues. It’s still the day of resurrection. The disciples have heard the good news, but who are they to believe this crazy story – especially, since it came from such feeble witnesses as women? And they act according to their disbelief – they hide away, in a locked room, for fear of the Jews, as we read. They are afraid to suffer a similar fate as Jesus’. And as the sun goes down, the risen Christ appears among them. Peace be with you.

The disciples are stunned. They ought to be prepared for this, but the reality of the risen Christ, moving, breathing, talking among them, is still a shock. Jesus even has to show them the crucifixion marks in his hands, feet, and side, in order to convince them: it is him. It’s not a hoax. So finally, they believe and take part in the joy of the resurrection day. And they lived happily ever after. The end.

Well, no quite. Today’s gospel story usually focuses on Thomas, the proverbial doubting Thomas, who cannot believe the story his 9 companions tell him. But focusing on him distracts us from quite a stunning detail in the story: a week after Christ appeared to the 10 disciples, they still hide away in the same room, the only difference being that Thomas now is among them. Let me repeat that: they are still hiding away.

The idle story has become flesh and blood, a reality – and yet, the fear and uncertainty about their future keeps the disciples in hiding. The story might as well be a hoax, the way they are acting. There is this important step between believing, between faith – and faithfulness, the living expression of what we believe. The disciples are very hesitant, and maybe plain clueless about how to take that step, as we will see next Sunday – there we have yet another post Resurrection story, which demonstrates that the disciples just don’t know how to deal with the reality of the risen Christ, a new life, a new chance. Stay tuned!

And here we are, roughly 2,000 years later. We did not witness the resurrection first hand, but had to rely on the witness of our forbears in faith – and faithfulness. We are those whom Jesus calls blessed, because we have come to believe, though our eyes have not seen. We are blessed, because we believe in the deeper truth of this story. We believe this story is not a hoax, but gives us the power to embrace life to the fullest – and deepest. We know about the life-changing power of the gospel. We are loved. We are forgiven. We can breathe. We can live and hope in life eternal in God. Thanks be to God!

And if it were not so, we wouldn’t continue to baptize people into the one faith in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as we will do again today as we entrust K. to the love and grace of God. We believe that this amazing and mindboggling story of Jesus Christ risen from the dead has the power to transform K’s life. Not in the sense that he will be immune against bad things, hurt, and grief – not, that he will walk through life without any difficulties – but that God is by his side, and that God puts the whole body of Christ by his side: the church and her people. K. will never have to walk alone and bear the burdens of life by himself: there are his parents, his grandma, his family, his sponsors, and then all of us who promise on this day to walk with K.

And another amazing thing: we here will make this promise on behalf of all Christians on this planet. No matter, where K. will end up – God will be there. And chances are, there will be a community of faith to embrace him, wherever he goes.

But we are not only baptized to find a home with God and stay put.  Today’s gospel story is a reminder for all of us, who we are baptized into the one faith and holy church, that we are also part of the apostolic church, as we confess – we are all apostles, which literally means sent out, to live our faith faithfully and act in ways that the life-changing and life-fostering power of the resurrection will be experienced wherever we go. We can’t just hide away, out of fear or whatever motives. We are called to be the breathing, loving, forgiving, healing body of Christ, out there, in the places we live, work, and play.

Many think the story of the resurrection is a hoax, and that is makes fools out of us. So let’s show the world! Let’s show them that God’s love can change lives, by helping our neighbor, here or around the world, whenever we can. Let’s show them that there is wisdom and abundant life for everyone and everything when we follow the path of humility, respect, and compassion, instead of falling into the temptation of succumbing to greed, self-righteousness, and mindless consumption. Let’s show them the marks of the hurt and pain we bear – and how our faith in God  transcends our wounds and makes us new. Let’s show them that Christ, indeed, is risen and alive, active in this world today – often through people like us.

May this amazing story continue to be flesh and blood, a reality – through K., and you, and me, and us. May the world see it reflected in our wisdom and grace and faithful living. Amen