acts 4:32-35; psalm 133; 1 john 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
the rev. Carissa baldwin-McGinnis
Last week I shared a 5th Century assertion by John Chrysostom that Easter is the feast of our inclusion. In his Easter homily he invited the first, the last, the rich, the poor, the sober and the users to “celebrate the day!!!”
It is great to have a festival day where everyone is invited, but now we are into the Great 50 Days of our inclusion. Inclusion for one day seems doable, but inclusion for a protracted season seems less likely.
Inclusion is akin to diversity. Those of us who have tried to value and navigate diversity in American culture in recent decades have attended to difference carefully. We mostly cross over cultural boundaries in an organized way. We have customs and agreements about how to navigate difference in ways that keep us safe while allowing us to learn and grow.
The nature of inclusion seems to be slightly different than the nature of diversity. With inclusion, it is as if the boundaries of difference themselves have been eliminated. In a season of inclusion, we would have to experience a protracted elimination of the boundaries of difference?
There are certainly implications for attempting to live in inclusive community for more than just one day. It might involve sharing all things in common as is described in Acts of the earliest post-Jesus, Jesus-following community. Or it might involve the challenges of living together in unity as described in the first letter of John.
A helpful analogy of the challenge of inclusion might be the political infrastructure of nationhood and immigration. Nation states issue permits and visas for residency and citizenship. They do so to broker boundaries of belonging, location and the distribution of resources. Liberals and conservatives alike value some amount of order to our nationhood and national boundary crossing, because it helps keep us safe when we are the stranger in a strange land.
But when people cross boundaries without order, it makes us uncomfortable. We fear that the balance of social and political systems will be disrupted. We wonder how we can keep up with mass movements that governments cannot control. It is almost impossible for even the most generous person to imagine the elimination of these boundaries and controls. Yet the fantasy that kind of boundary elimination is the dream of a global inclusion of one human race with a single, shared homeland.
There are so many boundary crossings in the Gospel reading from John.
1. The doors of the house where the disciples are gathered are locked for fear of attack.
Yet Jesus is suddenly inside.
2. In his appearance, Jesus crosses the boundary between the dead and the living.
3. In his presence he crosses be line between the material and the mystical.
4. Thomas crosses these as well, when he insists on reaching back to touch Jesus.
5. Jesus eliminates a primary religious boundary of 1st Century Judaism when he himself offers the power of forgiveness to his friends when it was something only Yahweh would have been able to grant by way of temple priests through inner sanctum sacrifice and prayer. Jesus crossed the barrier into the role and realm of priesthood and role and realm of YHWY himself. This was more than theological boundary crossing, but rather an explosion of the boundary itself.
As for Thomas, we traditionally disparage him as weak and doubting. Why not call him brave Thomas or prudent Thomas instead? My wife has taught me to trust and verify all things. She has taught me the wisdom in setting your intentions while making sure there is evidence to prove that what is promised to you has been delivered. Every person here must have a story of time they now wish they had verified.
In an era where there were many asserting themselves as the Jewish messiah, only a foolish Jesus follower would have failed to verify that this person who appeared was the same one whom they had loved and followed. At best he could have been a fraud. At worst, a Roman enemy in disguise.
And how brave must Thomas have been to cross that barrier between the material and the mystical. If we let ourselves acknowledge it, we can see that we too are crossing it all the time. Matthew Fox says we are all mystics, and we should use our spiritual experience ton guide us as we navigate the challenges of our lives and our time. We live into our own mysticism on this Baptismal day along with the mysticism of the church. As we baptize, we uphold the spiritual power of the water, oil and fire beyond its physical manifestation as we confess that we gathered are more than just people in the pews; we are the body of Christ.
As the body of Christ, it is our job to invite this child as he grows to get to know us even in our tender places.
St. Andrew’s usually gets high marks for inclusion. In this season of Eastertide, then, I invite you to study your own heart and why you have chosen this place. What has St. Andrew’s culture of inclusion done for you personally? And how does the practice of inclusion enhance your relationship to God? May the map of inclusion be our community’s guide as we pray and celebrate together these Great Fifty Days of Eastertide.