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Homily from the Worship Service for the Second Sunday of Easter

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, 2021
A Conversation with Bishop Hollingsworth
 
The Rev. Anna Sutterisch:
Every Sunday after Easter, we get the same story, which is the story of Thomas. And often he's known as “doubting” Thomas, in part because in the interpretation that we had today, it says, "Stop doubting and have faith." And so, we often know him as doubting Thomas. But I wonder if there are any different ways to describe Thomas.
 
Bishop Hollingsworth:
Good question, Anna. Thomas is one of my favorite characters in the Gospels, in part because I so easily relate to him. And my feeling has always been that Thomas is more a believing Thomas than a doubting Thomas, although of course he had doubts. Everybody has doubts. When I was a freshman in college, Frederick Buechner published a little volume called Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. And under Doubt it reads, "Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving." I have kept this volume with me for almost a half a century, in large part because of that succinct reminder of the role of doubts in my life.
 
Thomas's doubts weren't about Jesus. They were about himself. I can imagine, given what happened to Jesus and what was happening to the disciples and to the women and men who loved Jesus and followed him, that Thomas was wondering, “How can I keep doing this? I don't think I'm able to do this. Where is this going to lead me?” I imagine that his doubts were about himself, not about who Jesus was. And Jesus's response was to be fully present to him. "Put your hand here and know that I know how that feels." And that's why I think of Thomas as believing Thomas. He's a great model for me, of how to be honest with Jesus, how to ask Jesus for the things that we need, how to present ourselves in full authenticity to the Jesus who loves us and who died for us and who wants us to face those doubts so that we can own who we are and where we are and become godly ourselves.
 
The Rev. Anna Sutterisch:
Amen. So you said something that I think a lot of us have felt, especially this past year, which I think that Thomas might have been feeling, "I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I can get through this." And we've had a really dramatic and upsetting and scary year. I'm wondering for you, how have your doubts and belief changed? How has God become present to you amidst a pandemic and racial reckoning and politics, and just all the things that have happened on a national level, as well as a personal level?
 
Bishop Hollingsworth:
This has been a very hard year. There's no question about it, Anna. And on top of all the things that you mentioned, we've also had real life. We've had the ups and downs of life and all of the challenges. And all of these things together present anxiety and fear and suspicion and all kinds of responses that the power of evil wants to use to keep us separate from one another because that's, of course, the only way that it wins. At the same time, I think that our isolation from one another has reminded us of how much we need each other. I think that our reliance on one another has provided new opportunities to be connected, both by technology and just by vulnerability, just by reaching out to one another and being companions on the way.
 
And so, I find that I'm ever more aware that all of this is bigger than I am – that, of course, I can't fix all these things. I can't come up with solutions or answers that are going to please everybody or meet every need. And of course, I'm not going to come up with anything unless I pay attention and listen to those who share their concerns, and to the extraordinary colleagues that we are given in the Diocese with one another, clergy and lay people alike. I think it has deepened my humility and my clarity about reliance on others. And so far, God hasn't let us down. At every turn, we've found new ways of being faithful and of providing for one another that cost us something. And of course, that's what Thomas learned, that this was going to cost him something. And it cost him owning his doubts and fears and stepping forward, drawing near to God and giving himself to God in Christ.
 
The Rev. Anna Sutterisch:
So we're in the Easter season and we're in the season of resurrection and Jesus talks about true life. I've certainly had some personal losses because of this pandemic, and so I've been trying to think about resurrection really differently since it's so close to home right now. And I'm wondering for you when Jesus talks about true life, what that means for you.
 
 
 
Bishop Hollingsworth:
Oh, thank you, Anna. You have had a long year and a long last month or so, and so you know this well. I think for me, resurrection life is a life of acceptance – acceptance of the realities that we face in our lives and in the lives of those we love and those with whom we work and those whom we serve. I think it's about acceptance both of our dependence and on our abilities, which are usually beyond what we ever imagined, when we're willing to let go of the things we think we need to hold onto, in order to be free to become what God dreams for us to be, and to do what God dreams for us to do.
 
I think resurrection life is for us just what it was for those women and men who loved Jesus during his life, and who found that after his death and resurrection, he was still very much equally, if not more, present with them when they came to him, when they surrendered themselves to him and to God, when they were able to do what we do in the Eucharist, every time when they joined in his sacrifice. And that is, of course, our vocation as Christian. It is to join in Jesus's sacrifice, to become one with Jesus, and to give ourselves in the literal sense of the term sacrifice. Sacrificial, to make holy. When we give ourselves to God, God makes us holy in ways that we haven't imagined. And that is resurrected life, just as his death made holy all of creation in his resurrection.
 
And so, our joining in his sacrifice, our dying in baptism and being risen to new life in him, is the sacrificial path to the resurrection life that affirms for us, over and over and over, that God is with us, in the companionship of Jesus, in the direction of the Holy Spirit, and in the unending love of the creator. So, this period of Easter is the time when we open ourselves up. Having opened up to ourselves in a sense in the penitential season of Lent, we open ourselves up now to the presence of Jesus in us all the time, in every place and in every way, and delight in that and deepen our confidence in that and give ourselves more fully to that, every day.
 
The Rev. Anna Sutterisch:
Amen.
 
Bishop Hollingsworth:
Amen.

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