Second Sunday of Easter
Readings – Acts 2: 14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; I Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
158 years ago, the Civil War was ending. It was the war when those states who insisted on white supremacy and slavery pulled away. They no longer wished to stretch to the value put forth in the Declaration of Independence:
…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Thomas Jefferson wrote this for all men, white and black, and yes, women were not yet included.
As the war was reaching its conclusion, Abraham Lincoln wanted to relax and had tickets to Ford’s Theater. The play was a comedy, “Our American Cousin”. John Wilkes Booth saw this as an opportunity. Plans were set for the assassination of the President, the Vice President, Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State, William H. Seward. Sec. Seward was severely injured, but the attempt on the Vice President was not made, and he would become the 17th President. A one-shot Derringer mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln on Friday, the 14th, and he died on the 15th. On Easter Sunday, the 16th, churches and homes were draped in black rather than the brilliant white of Easter. The entire Union entered a prolonged period of mourning as the funeral train wounded its way from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis, Michigan City, Chicago, and, finally, to Springfield, Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln was a man of deep faith, and Sundays he was to be found on a rented family pew at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Phineas Densmore Gurley was his pastor, and they regularly prayed and studied together as the President sought “The Lord [to] show me the path of life”. The President wanted to be on the right side of history while preserving the Union and moving toward the freeing of slaves. The words of the Declaration of Independence were his inspiration and guide. He also knew the words of The Rev. Theodore Parker, a Unitarian pastor from Massachusetts who said:
As Abraham Lincoln sought reconciliation; he sought peace with the rebellious states. He knew that Jesus was the Prince of Peace. He knew the words that Saint Peter spoke to the gathered crowd following the resurrection:
[Jesus] was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption. This Jesus God raised up…Jesus was raised up so all would know that the Prince of Peace was indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life.
We know how to live on the right side of history, a history that always bends toward Justice. While Abraham Lincoln lived a large life, we live small lives, but we, too, can take our place on the right side of history; we, too, can participate in the bending of history toward Justice.
Our Gospel according to St. John quietly suggests how we can have an impact. It is in the story of the disciples and Thomas. Remember that Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared to the fearful disciples bringing with him the Peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The text states, “A week later his disciples were again in the house and Thomas was with them”. Someone invited Thomas back in spite of his disbelief, in spite of his doubting. And we also know that following that encounter on that second Sunday, Thomas went to India to witness and build communities of faith. Thomas was invited back!
How many do we know who are disbelieving? How many do we know who are doubting? How many do we know that were at one time among us? We need to be inviting. To be welcoming when people walk up our steps is good, but we can do better. We need to swell the ranks of people who wish to be on the right side of history. We need to swell the ranks of people who can help bend the arc of history toward Justice.
The Resurrection of Jesus is God’s stamp of approval on all that Jesus did. So let us rejoice! Let us ring our bells! Let us invite our sisters and our brothers to join us as we seek to do more fully God’s will here on earth so that it more fully measures up to God’s will as it is done in heaven.