April 8 2018

Sermon by Reverend Mark Thompson

Lansing Central United Methodist Church

April 8, 2018

“All Are Welcome”

 

John 20: 19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Sermon: “All Are Welcome”

(This sermon is preached among the congregation.)

 

“Home is where the heart is.” I like that phrase. It’s a statement that speaks to the desire to feel love, be loved, experience love.

For me it is more of a wish than a pronouncement. Maybe that is due to my upbringing. You see, I was number 5 kid in the family. My parents considered their family complete with two boys and two girls. Then along comes the opps baby.

I found this out in an odd way…that’s a story for another time. I did check out the reality of that statement, and sure enough, my mom verified it. I also found out that I spent the first while of my days on earth with my grandmother. It took a while before I was welcomed home.

So, the phrase “Home is where the heart is” has special meaning for me that might be different from you.

In an article by Mary Beth Steinfeld, M.D. entitled “Bonding is essential for normal infant development” she writes

Left alone, new mothers will hold their baby next to their bodies, rock them gently, strive for eye contact, sing or talk to the baby and begin to nurse. Often within just hours of birth, mothers report feelings of overwhelming love and attachment for their new baby.

A normal, full-term baby is also programmed to initiate and enter into a bonding relationship. Crying and making other noises, smiling, searching for the breast, and seeking eye contact give cues for a caring adult to respond.

When a caregiver consistently responds to an infant’s needs, a trusting relationship and lifelong attachment develops. This sets the stage for the growing child to enter healthy relationships with other people throughout life and to appropriately experience and express a full range of emotions.

https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/healthtips/20100114_infant-bonding.html

That explains most of my problems! Only kidding. The nurture that I received down through my years has helped me to understand the need to find a “home” a place to belong. Home is not a house, home is not a building. Home is where one finds unconditional love. Home is where one can go when times are tough. Home is where one can go to find love that nurtures a person to wholeness after having committed wrongs. Home is where joys are made more complete in celebration of life.

We raise our children to find nurture in the world so that they don’t become dependent upon us for all of their love. We seek to teach them the art of bonding so that they can find meaningful relationships at school, work, play, and maybe even in a partnership of devoted love.

That is true in the life of the church as well. We wish for parents to find a spiritual home where they can be themselves. A place to call home.

Now, when I say church, I don’t mean a building, I mean a fellowship of people. Recall the song:

The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple…the church is a people…

Jesus was trying to get that message through to his disciples. They had moved forward in their faith journey. They had come to see that God was not confined to the Temple. God was not found in a set of rules and expectations. They had come to that understanding long before his death and resurrection.

Now, after his resurrection, he had to move them to the place where they didn’t associate God with his physical presence. He had to help them understand that God was present with them even if he, as a physical man was not seen by them, even as he was going to be gone into heaven… God, in all of God’s wonder, was still with them. They could have peace of spirit just like when they were in his presence sitting down for a common meal.

Try to explain that one: present but not present, real but not touchable… yet, that is our marching orders as a church:

 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Central Church and all others listening to me this morning or other times of the week: Our goal is “to make disciples for the transformation of the world.” We are meant to connect people with God through the message of Jesus, the Christ. That is our call. Actually, it is pretty easy to do. If we focus on the love of God, the unconditional love of God, then people will come, people will search out Central and find a “home” here. Let us live out the reputation of Jesus, the unconditional love of Jesus.

How do we know what that is? The gospels are full of stories of how to love, live and accept others.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

 

Let’s live as Jesus lived… a life of unconditional love…so that others can find “home” in God’s love.