Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christian Funeral for Paul Drensek

John 14:1-6; Romans 8:31-39; Job 19:21-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly beloved family and friends of our departed brother in Christ Paul Drensek, sons Paul and Robert, daughter Krista, adored grandchildren, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are gathered here today to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for the faith and life our Lord granted to His servant, His child, and His son Paul, whom the LORD in His providence has seen fit to call home to His heavenly pastures where His sheep may safely graze.
In many ways, Paul represents the mythic, ideal American. Paul was born in the midst of The Great Depression in Turau, Germany where he learned the value of ordinary, mundane, but needful things. In such an environment of paucity and want are forged the great American values and virtues of conservatism, fidelity and trust, honesty, courage, hard work, contentment, and of not complaining even when times were very lean and difficult and dark. Paul immigrated to the United States in 1950 and immediately set about his trade as a master bricklayer and mason, joining the Allied Craftsmen whose members have built some of the most famous and iconic buildings and bridges in New York City. Paul was proud to be an American, and he worked hard for everything he received. In 1952 Paul was drafted into the U. S. Army, serving until 1979, first in the regular army and then the army reserve. He was a member of 11th Special Forces Group – Airborne, a paratrooper – proudly wearing the Green Beret. In 1958, Paul married Helga Lindig. Paul and Helga were married just shy of 54 years when Helga died in the Lord in 2012.
I’ve had the privilege and honor of knowing Paul over fourteen years. At church, Paul carried himself with a quiet and reserved, but strong and resolute dignity. I have found him to be a man of few words, but never unkind or hasty words, though his family have told me that, after a couple beers – which he goodly enjoyed as every German Lutheran should – he had a lot more to say, and with a great deal of humor and joy as well. Paul was a proud man, but not arrogant. His pride was not in being better than or having more than others, but his pride was in doing and being the best he could do and be, and what was good, and right, and true. I observed Paul particularly at the Pawling American Legion Memorial Day ceremony each year representing the best our nation has produced. Again, the quiet, reserved dignity was on display, this time joined by several others, some of whom are present today – men who gave of themselves for an idea they believed in, remembering and honoring those who gave all for the same. As one who has not served, but has been the beneficiary of their sacrifice, I say, “Thank you. God bless you and keep you. May your remembrance be eternal.”
Paul and Helga were the first parishioners to invite me to their home when I arrived in Pawling. I was served an authentic German cold-cut platter, which I take to be a staple in the Drensek home. Though I don’t remember, I’m certain they offered me a beer. Again, Paul enjoyed his beer. I loved to see him at our Oktoberfest celebration, happy as a clam. Krista and Paul told me that they were able to give their dad a little beer in the hospital. That put a smile on his face. Earlier, he had asked the nurses if he could step out for a beer. He promised to come back. Paul had a special relationship with his sister Katherina. His vehicle could regularly be seen parked outside her apartment. After Helga died, he dutifully brought Katherina to church and they sat together. Katherina had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. I always had the feeling that she and Paul were sharing a secret joke together. Paul was very proud of his family, his three children and five grandchildren, and why not? You are vibrant and strong, sharing his values, and a few have even followed him in military service. The many photos that have been shared in conjunction with Helga’s, Katherina’s, and now Paul’s funerals tell the story of family, love, and pride.
I can’t say that Paul had a lot in common with Job, except that both men were blessed richly by God. As the story goes, however, Satan challenged God saying that Job only loved Him because God had blessed him so richly – take away his blessings, Satan accused, and Job will curse you. So, God gave Satan permission to afflict Job that His righteousness might be proven as Job remained faithful in spite of severe affliction and suffering. Satan attacked Job’s wealth and possessions, killing all his herds and flocks. Then Satan attacked Job’s children and killed them. Lastly, Satan afflicted Job’s body with horrible sores so that all he had left was his life. Throughout it all, Job would not curse God and die. Instead Job confessed, “The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” I believe that Job’s confession is a confession that Paul would make as well, for his faith and trust was not in material possessions or even family or health, but in the LORD. In the midst of His suffering, Job was able to make a powerful confession of faith in the resurrection of the body even two millennia before the birth of Jesus saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” That confession must be our confession too, now, as we mourn and grieve that the LORD has taken away our Father, Grandfather, brother in Christ, and friend. We confess that, in Jesus Christ, we will see Paul again with our own eyes, hear his voice with our own eyes, and hug him with our own flesh and blood arms.
In a way, like Paul, our Lord Jesus Christ was a master bricklayer and mason: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Jesus has gone and prepared a place, has built a room, for you in His Father’s house. That room is sturdy and strong, unmovable, and cannot be taken away. Jesus had prepared a place for Helga and for Katherina, and Jesus had prepared a place for Paul too. This is great comfort and peace we can have on a day like this – that our salvation and life are not the result of either our sins or our good works, but they are the result of Jesus’ sinlessness and work on our behalf and in our stead and place. Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].” But, all who trust in Jesus are guaranteed a room in His Father’s house, and no one can take that away.
Does it sound like God is on your side? Indeed He is, as St. Paul proclaims, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Through good times and bad times, through times of plenty and times of want, God remains faithful, constant, and true. He is our mighty fortress when “devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.” “We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.” This is our confession and our faith. This was Paul’s confession and faith too. That is why, amidst the tears and the sorrows, there is also a resolute comfort, contentment, hope, and peace. For, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is why your hearts need not be troubled. You believe in God? Believe also in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the way to the Father. Paul was a baptized child of God who trusted in Him throughout His life. All that Jesus died to give to Paul, Paul received through baptism into Christ and faith. God has kept His promise to Paul, and He will keep His promise to you. This is God’s gift that we celebrate at Christmas. Let us remember and trust that we may be encouraged and have hope all the days of our lives, through death, unto life that never ends.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord - Christmas Day

John 1:1-18; Titus 3:4-7; Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There surely were few things more familiar, mundane, non-threatening, and approachable to the ancient Israelites than a tent. And yet, that is precisely how God chose to be present among His people – in a tent, the tabernacle, made by human hands. This was a radical change from God’s holy and terrifying presence on Mount Sinai in fire and smoke accompanied by thunder and lightning and quaking earth. The people, then, were forbidden to touch the mountain or even to approach it without first ceremonially cleansing and purifying themselves. Such restrictions and prohibitions were actually an act of mercy and grace on behalf of our Creator and God, for it was because of our sins and guilt that we could not abide in His presence, not because our God did not desire to be with His people. The LORD created us for communion with Him – so much more than the clichéd “personal relationship” many imagine today.
The LORD dwelt with His people, our First Parents Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. They had access to God, for they were created in His image, holy and righteous, sharing His will as their own. However, when they succumbed to the devil’s temptation and acted upon their own will, which is necessarily not the will of the LORD, they immediately became other, sinful and stained by guilt. No longer could they abide in the LORD’s holy and righteous presence lest they be utterly destroyed. Thus, the LORD protected them from His presence, exiling them from the Garden and barring the way by a holy angel holding a flashing sword. However, the LORD still desired to be with them, therefore through many and various ways He provided means by which they could approach Him and not be consumed. First He covered their nakedness and guilt by shedding the innocent blood of animals and covering them with their skins. Later He established the Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system that, by the shedding of the blood of hundreds of thousands of lambs and bulls the LORD might look away from their sin and guilt for a time. Still, none of these means ever removed or took away a single sin, but only covered them over for a time. Thus, the sacrifices had to be repeated daily, monthly, and annually until time was full for them to be fulfilled by the sacrifice they all pointed to, a sacrifice the LORD Himself would make to take away the sins of the world.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Blessed Christmas! There surely were few things more familiar, mundane, non-threatening, and approachable to the ancient Israelites – and to us – than a newborn child. And yet, that is precisely how God chose to be present among His people – in a flesh and blood newborn child made without human hands. Once the shekinah glorious presence of the LORD among His people dwelt in the tent of the tabernacle and behind the temple veil that no man could enter into but only the high priest, and only one day each year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and only after elaborate and particular cleansing and purifying rights and sacrifices of innocent blood. But, in the incarnation of God, the Word made flesh Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, men could now approach and handle God without fear. As we confess in the Christmas hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail! The incarnate deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”
In the Incarnation, as a zygote, embryo, and fetus, as an infant child, the glory of the LORD shifted location and presence from the temple built by human hands to the virgin womb of Mary. The shekinah glory of the LORD that dwelt among His people on Sinai, in the tabernacle, and in the temple took up residence in the virgin womb of a lowly human maiden, the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos “Mother of God.” Jesus Himself made this point later in His ministry in response to the disciple’s marveling at the Jerusalem temple saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” St. John tells us that Jesus was talking about His own body. Thus, St. John proclaims in the Christmas Gospel, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory [His shekinah glory], glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Blessed Christmas!
God’s Christmas present to the world is His approachable, handleable presence in Jesus Christ. Of this marvelous, mysterious, glorious, and holy truth the preacher to the Hebrews proclaims, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The Incarnation of God, which we celebrate and remember and give thanks for this Christmas Day, has provided us eternal access to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. More than that, however, the Incarnation is the beginning of our redemption and restoration to God, that we may dwell and live in His holy, righteous, and glorious presence without fear. In the Incarnation, God became man that man might commune with God in a way even greater than did our First Parents in righteousness in the Garden before the Fall.
Jesus’ flesh became the new tent, tabernacle, temple, and veil within which the righteous and holy shekinah glory of the LORD dwelt among His people. God dwelt among His family, a human mother and father, having sisters and brothers. God dwelt among simple, sinful men and women whom He called to follow Him as His disciples. God dwelt among lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Jews and Gentiles, sinners, and the unclean, and they were not consumed and destroyed, but were forgiven and healed from their sin-sickness unto death. As a man, God took all their sins and guilt and uncleanness upon Himself and left them pure and clean and forgiven. God took all their sins and guilt and uncleanness upon Himself and nailed it to the cross. God died as a man for men who deserved to die, and He left their sins and guilt and uncleanness behind in His tomb as He rose from death, its victor, never to die again. Then He ascended back into heaven, as a man forever to remain, securing our own place in the presence of the glory of the LORD forever. A man now sits at the right hand of the Father in His glorious presence, and so shall you. Blessed Christmas!
The Incarnation of God, the enfleshment of the Son of God, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, has literally changed everything – how we live, how we die, how we relate to each other, and how we relate to God. No longer do we fear God’s wrath against our sin and being sent to hell. No longer do we fear having or not having, what our enemies might do to us, or even death. This is freedom, true freedom – Freedom from the bondage of sin and the fear of death and hell. Blessed Christmas! Even now we enter into His holy and righteous presence without fear  – though in great humility, reverence, trust, and love – and we receive Him who created the universe and all things in it, who sustains our own lives and all things still, who loves us with such a perfect and holy love that He would not see us forsaken and destroyed though we rebelled against Him and treated Him contemptuously and, sometimes, still do. We not only enter His holy and righteous presence, but we take Him into ourselves. His flesh is our flesh, His blood courses through our veins – this too is the meaning of the Incarnation – in blessed and holy communion that our First Parents would have longed for even in the Garden.
And yet still, this is but a foretaste of what is yet to come in the resurrection and eternal life in heaven. The Word made flesh is present for us to eat and drink under the lowly, humble, approachable, and handleable forms of bread and wine that we might commune with Him and receive His holy and righteous presence now to sustain us until the not yet. Blessed Christmas! “He whom the sea and wind obey doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness. Thou, God’s own Son, with us art one, dost join us and our children in our weakness.” This is God’s gift at Christmas; this is God’s Christmas presence. O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord - Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We exchange gifts at Christmas in remembrance of God’s Gift to us and the whole world in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true meaning of Christmas, lest we be overcome by worldly pursuits and fleshly desires and passions and forget. Jesus is God’s gift at Christmas, and it is not cliché to say that Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. What I mean to say is that Jesus is the gift that has forever changed who we are, why we are, and where we are going in our lives. To understand this truth rightly, however, we must understand a word that has sadly fallen out of common use in the Christian Church and faith, the word incarnation. Incarnation literally means to take up flesh as in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” That God became a man, one of His own creation, “Perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh,” as we confess in The Athanasian Creed, has literally, really, truly, and forever, changed everything!
The people of the first century world were, as the Prophet declares, a people “who dwelt in a land of deep darkness.” They had experienced a repetitious cycle of faithfulness, complacency, rebellion, unbelief, and apostasy, judgment, repentance, redemption and restoration – now, rinse and repeat. A sign for hope was offered to King Ahaz, but was spurned by him: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” – God with us. Still, most did not believe, but only a promised remnant. And, after hundreds of years, the kingdom of Israel was barren and lifeless. The great olive tree that the LORD had planted, into which the Gentiles were to be grafted and redeemed, had been cut down so that only a barren, lifeless, and fruitless stump remained. The land and the people were spiritually scorched and dead. The Word of the LORD had been silent for four hundred years. The people spent their days and years eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, living mostly in fear of their enemies, without any real hope for rescue or redemption, making the best of a hopeless situation, having forgotten or forsaken their God and His covenant promises made to their forefathers. Sound familiar? That was the people and the world upon whom a Light was about to shine. Sadly, most had grown so accustomed to dwelling in darkness that they either failed to recognize the Light, or they were afraid of the Light and fled from it, or they recognized it and hated it and sought to destroy it.
But, not all. A young Jewish woman named Mary, a descendant of the House of David, was watching and waiting. So too was a faithful Jewish man named Joseph, also a descendant of the House of David, to whom Mary was betrothed. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and proclaimed that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, she was fearful at the angel’s greeting, as a sinful man or woman should be, but she did not doubt the Word the angel proclaimed. She did ask a practical question, however, concerning how this would happen, since she was a virgin. Thus, Mary conceived the Christ Child in the same way that Abraham and all his children, including you and I, came to faith, by the Word of the LORD. Mary heard and believed the Word of the LORD that Gabriel proclaimed, and that Word took up residence within her virgin womb: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” The Word of God, by whom all things have been made, condescended to become a man, conceived as all men are, in the womb of a human woman, a virgin womb from whence no life could possibly be expected to arise. In many respects, the Virgin Mary was like that barren, lifeless, and fruitless stump of Jesse from which no one could have anticipated hope and life to arise. And yet, it was prophesied, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” If the branch is the Christ, which it most certainly is, then it makes sense to think of the stump as Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. Of course, what is Mary, but the New Eve. As our First Mother introduced sin and death into the world, so Mary is made to be the mother of the world’s Savior, Jesus, the New Adam.
Even the announcement of Jesus’ birth to lowly shepherds was unexpected. Would not such news be proclaimed first to powerful Kings and the religious leaders of Israel? But then, who were those shepherds, and what did they represent? “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Are not shepherds pastors, and flocks their congregations? Those shepherds were found by the angel watching over the flocks entrusted to their care while the official shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, Priests, and Levites, had long ago forsaken the hope of Messiah and taught the people they were given to care for to do the same. And they were given a message to proclaim to all the world, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Truly, the Lord’s undershepherds continue to point all the world to their Savior wrapped in lowly bread and wine that all who believe may receive the forgiveness of their sins and live.
This Promised Son of woman’s seed, this fresh and lively shoot from Jesse’s stump, this flowering rose of the Virgin’s womb, this swaddled Babe of Bethlehem, the host of angels proclaimed. He is Peace between God and men in whom alone God is well pleased. The shepherds went with haste to behold this great and mighty wonder that the LORD had made known to them. And, there they beheld Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. When they saw it, they went and told all who would receive them this Good News. Everyone who heard them wondered at their words. Perhaps they had a faint recollection of a promise long ago forgotten. But, Mary, His mother, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
It was a mystery, a great and holy wonder and mystery. Even the faithful remnant, those like Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, who clung to hope and faith in the LORD’s promise, could not fully understand what was happening. Yet, still they believed. Faith is not understanding or knowledge, but faith is trust. May we, like the Holy Family and the shepherds and the Magi, watch and wait for our Lord’s reappearing in faith and hope and trust like the faithful remnant who watched and waited so long ago. And, may we place our faith and trust in the mysterious gifts He has given us now as we watch and wait, His Holy Word, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper, that our sins may be forgiven, our faith strengthened, and our hope encouraged.
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom. He reigns and rules even now at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, even as the kings of men go to war and rob and oppress the people. He counsels and guides His people in the Truth by His Holy Spirit through His Word. He is God, and He is man, united in one person forevermore, and we are one with God in and through Him now, even as what we will be has yet to be revealed. He is our true spiritual Father and Great High Priest, interceding on our behalf before our God and Father. He is Peace with God, and the only possible peace between men. He is the Peace that comforts us when the terrors of the dark night of this world threaten to overcome us. And, He is the Peace that we show and share with others to the glory of His Name.
In the incarnation and birth of Jesus, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” Jesus is God’s gift at Christmas, the gift that keeps on giving, because that gift has forever changed who we are, why we are, and where we are going in our lives. We are God’s children now, His own sons and daughters through baptism and faith in His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. We are subjects of the King of the Universe and of all creation, and not subjects only, but kings and queens of heaven and earth with Him. Therefore, let us not live our lives pursuing ungodliness and worldly passion, but let us live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age as we watch and wait for our Lord’s return, treasuring and pondering all these things daily in our hearts. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” “O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Festival of St. Thomas, Apostle

John 20:19-31; Ephesians 1:3-6

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Thomas was no more a doubter than the other disciples, nor you or I. The difference between Thomas and us is that he was bold enough to voice his doubts before his peers and his Lord. Thomas said what he was thinking, and therefore his questions could be answered and his doubts could be assuaged. When you harbor your doubts and do not express them, not only do you not get answers and comfort from the Word of the LORD, but your Enemy the devil will use your doubts against you to lead you into unbelief and to destroy your faith.
Not so with Thomas. Thomas came right out with his questions and his doubts. When Jesus set Himself to go to Jerusalem to face His destiny there, it was Thomas who despaired vocally to the other disciples saying, “Let us go that we might die with Him!” And, when Jesus comforted His disciples, assuring them that He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them that He might return and take them to be with Him, it was Thomas who expressed the confusion they all felt saying, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?” But, of course, Thomas is most infamously known for his bold expression of doubt concerning the Lord’s resurrection, blurting out before the others, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” For this statement alone, it seems, Thomas has received the moniker of “Doubting Thomas.”
Yet, because Thomas was bold enough to ask, He received precisely what He needed to answer his questions and to alleviate his doubts – and, undoubtedly, the doubts of others. Our resurrected Lord Jesus beckoned Thomas to come to Him, to see the marks of the nails and spear in His hands, feet, and side, to place his finger into His holy wounds, to place His hand into His opened side, with the exhortation, proclamation, and invitation, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The Evangelist does not record that Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds. It is my belief that he did not, for now, seeing with his own eyes, Thomas’ doubts were assuaged, his questions answered. Then Thomas was able to give a confession more bold and true than even St. Peter’s. For, Peter rightly confessed his Lord Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” but Thomas now confessed of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
It is the Holy Gospel According to St. John that provides us much of what we know about St. Thomas from the Holy Scriptures. Seemingly, John used Thomas’s questions and doubts to reveal important truths about Jesus. In Thomas’ despairing, “Let us go that we may die with Him!” is revealed the reason that Jesus was going to Jerusalem and also the way of those who would be His disciples, that they must take up their own crosses and follow Him. Likewise, Thomas’ confused statement, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?” becomes an opportunity for Jesus to reveal that He is both the way to the Father and one with the Father saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This faith and confession is confirmed in Thomas, and in all believers, whether they have seen like Thomas or not, in His confession of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus, bearing now and forever the marks of His crucifixion and death, is literally the living proof of our justification and reconciliation with God the Father. In the resurrection, Jesus’ wounds have become “glorious scars” and “dear tokens of His passion.”
After Jesus’ resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, there was no more doubting for Thomas or any of the Apostles. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit and faith to proclaim Christ crucified and risen to all the world, even before kings, emperors, and enemies. All of the Apostles became martyrs for their faith in the Lord. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs states that “Once Thomas left Jerusalem, there’s no evidence that he ever returned. He left his doubts behind. […] Thomas traveled north and east from Israel, passing through Babylon and Persia and making an impact for the Gospel as far as the southern regions of India.” The Christians of the southern region of India in particular claim St. Thomas as their patron saint. There is a large group of Christians in southern India that call themselves Thomistic Christians after St. Thomas the Apostle. Legend has it that Thomas “ran afoul of the Hindu priests who envied his success and rejected his message. Thomas was speared to death. The location of his tomb can still be visited in Mylapore, India.” Christian artistic images of St. Thomas often depict him holding a spear.
For myself, St. Thomas is at once encouraging and comforting and inspiring, for he was bold to express his doubts and to seek answers to strengthen his faith, and he was even bolder once the Lord had answered him and strengthened him. I can identify with Thomas, and I hope that you can to. Thomas did not give up, but he demanded the Lord to convince him. May we be so bold as St. Thomas to cling to Jesus in faith and not let go, even when we struggle to believe. I am reminded of the faithful confession of the father of a demon-possessed boy who pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.” Jesus answered that prayer immediately and cast out the demon and healed the boy. Ask for faith, and it will be given to you. Seek Jesus, and you will find Him. Knock upon the door of His Father’s house, even in weak and struggling faith, and it will be opened to you. As Jesus answered Thomas’ seeking faith: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Let us all confess with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.