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When All Seems Lost, Do the Next Right Thing
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A; April 19, 2020
1 Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 16; John 20:19-31
Our Saviour Lutheran Church of Warrenton, VA
The Reverend Terri Elaine Luper Church
Okay, time for some dad jokes.
- Well, I’m not a dad, so I guess that makes it a faux pa.
- I went on a once-in-a lifetime vacation. Never doing that again!
- My new thesaurus is terrible. Not only that, but it’s also terrible. (see what I mean?)
- Why should you never write with a broken pencil? Because it’s pointless.
- Finally, why didn’t the astronaut work from home? Because he needed his space.
You may be wondering what these jokes have to do with the lessons, Easter, or current events. Here is the answer: NOTHING! I just needed break from talking about Covid-19 and the news and how it has affected our lives, just for a moment. You’re welcome. (Please post photos of kittens or cute babies as your response!)
I wonder if that isn’t why the Apostle Thomas was missing from the group that first Easter evening. According to tradition, the disciples had been hanging out in that Upper Room since the previous Thursday night when Jesus gathered them for his Last Supper. They were coming and going, using this room as a base of operations through the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and beyond. Although, a better word for it is hideout. They were hiding from the ones who had arrested and killed their teacher and friend, Jesus. They were gathering information—from the women who found the tomb empty, from others to whom Jesus appeared, and from the community or anywhere else they could get intel. They were hiding out in fear and hope for better news. (Doesn’t that sound a bit like all of us this Easter?)
In that context, it is not at all surprising that Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared. He was either out exchanging news or gathering supplies, or, perhaps, he was just trying to get away from all the depressing conversations. He, like that astronaut, may have just needed his “space.” Of course, we don’t know. Since the Bible doesn’t say, we can only guess.
The disciples were in the dark. Even the men who heard from Mary Magdalene didn’t really believe her—surely, Jesus could not rise from the dead? They all felt that hope was gone. They felt alone. That darkness must have felt so heavy, so dark, so…too much to bear. Where was the Light of the World when they needed him most?!
As I thought about that heavy darkness, two theologians came to mind. One is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In a 2010 interview with Deborah Solomon, he said this: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. You see it wonderfully when you fly and the sky is overcast. Sometimes you forget that just beyond the clouds the sun is shining.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Yes! The sun is shining somewhere, even when we cannot see it. Yes, it is hard, , this illness that separates us, this physical pain and death that comes from it, this judgment about the right and wrong ways to respond to it, this being on top of each other in a crowded home, this being completely alone when you’re single, this loss of graduations and prom and a senior year, this anxiety about what comes next. It. Is. Hard! It can begin to feel like unending darkness where the light will never come. But it is not! Hope is a gift from God, being able to see that there IS light even though we don’t see or feel it.
Our reading from 1 Peter today reminds us of that gift.
We have been “given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … even though we have not seen him.”
However, the joy of that good news may not appear in the moment. In the darkness, you may have a hard time finding the light. And that brings me to another great theologian: Queen Anna of Arendelle, you may know her from the Disney movies, Frozen and Frozen 2.
In the moment when Anna felt like the loss was too much and the only answer was giving up, she sang these words:
I’ve seen dark before, but not like this. This is cold. This is empty. This is numb. The life I knew is over. The lights are out. Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb.
In her darkness she hears the voice of wisdom,
“You are lost, hope is gone, but you must go on, and do the next right thing.”
So, she does. She takes a step in the right direction, and even though the path is harrowing, she makes it to the light. I love this line the best:
“I won’t look too far ahead. It’s too much for me to take. But break it down to this next breath, this next step, this next choice is one that I can make!”
This next choice is one that I can make. My friends, we must go on. We must take the next right step, do the next right thing. How do you know what is the next right thing? That is where we get back to faith.
Thomas was not there that first Easter when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Oh, how like all of us this Easter! We weren’t here! The church was locked up! But hope is not lost. We still have the Light—because Jesus did rise from the dead. He appears to those hiding in fear and brings what we need to hear, “Peace.” And then Jesus guides us to the next right thing.
For Thomas, it was coming back. For whatever reason, he wasn’t there to see Jesus the first time, but he took the step to come back. The next step was his doubt. I know, I know, his doubt gets a bad rap, but it was exactly the right step for him. We need to wrestle and ask questions, to argue with our faith, with God, with the community. And step by step his search led Thomas to figure out that Jesus is not just a cool teacher, a kind person, a miracle healer, and a guy back from the dead—no, when Thomas saw Jesus his faith had grown. He did not just greet his friend Jesus, he said,
“My Lord and my God!”
The next right thing was a prayer of praise to God, whom he now realized had been standing in their midst all along.
When the darkness feels too dark, the pain too great, the way too lost, take just one step and let God’s light shine through. I don’t know your next right thing, but I do know this: God is with you in the darkness and in the light. God loves you, now and forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
 QUESTIONS FOR ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU “The Priest” New York Times, By Deborah Solomon; March 4, 2010 https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07fob-q4-t.html
 Lyrics from Frozen 2, Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Performed by Kristen Bell as Anna, https://www.disneyclips.com/lyrics/frozen2-the-next-right-thing.html
Liturgical material © 2017 Augsburg Fortress; used by permission of Augsburg Fortress, #SAS009239. Copyright Acknowledgments (CCLI License # 2800659 and One License # 710443-A) for print and broadcast.