“Discomfort, Intolerance and Peace” / John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-11 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday, April 24th / Easter Season
SERMON NOTES (Listen to the audio for more)
Text: John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-11
Theme: “Discomfort, Intolerance and peace”
Intr – A new poll shows that some Canadians now believe that certain religions are more damaging to society than beneficial. “Broader society still is not fully comfortable and fully clear about what to do with religion, and therefore they show some signs of discomfort,” Abdie Kazemipur, a University of Calgary sociologist and the chair in ethnic studies, explains. “It’s not intolerance at the moment, it is discomfort.”
“The survey reveals that all religious groups surveyed viewed evangelical Christianity as more damaging to society than beneficial, while Islam was also perceived in a largely negative light. Respondents from both religions were also more likely to feel that Canada doesn’t make room for their beliefs in society… The data shows that one-fifth of Canadians (19 per cent) now classify themselves as “non-believers.
The largest group of Canadians are the “spiritually uncertain,” representing 46 per cent of the population. One-third (34 per cent) definitely believe in God or a higher power, while 31 per cent think a higher power exists but are less certain. Roman Catholics (52%) and mainstream Protestants (56%) fall into the spiritually uncertain category. Just 16 per cent of Canadians consider themselves “religiously committed,” with high levels of worship and belief in God, while 19% are “privately faithful.”
Words like discomfort and intolerance, “spiritually uncertain” and “privately faithful” sparkled for me a connection with today’s readings. There we see discomfort too; we see intolerance; we see rage. However we see something that this type of report, or anywhere else besides the Church, would ever show: Peace.
1 – DISCOMFORT
One week after the Resurrection Thomas was not comfortable. He was still bereaved by the death of His Master. Perhaps he had got around starting to sink in, thinks might have been like “This is all illusion, Thomas.” “Do you think this is relevant for our society? Religion is for the weak.” “This Jesus could be causing more damage than hope to our social fabric. Maybe it’s for the good that he is gone.” Perhaps those ideas were right, and all that followers of Christ were doing was to disturb a multi-secular institution of the Palestinian society. Thomas was spiritually uncertain.
To make the matters even worse now his friends come with that unsettling news: Jesus is alive. He is risen! Why would they do that? Why would they try to ease his discomfort with such highly improbable possibility? That’s when he utters the words he is most famous for: I want to see in order to believe. Uncomfortable. Spiritually uncertain.
Just as a side note, I have to say that I’m not with Thomas when it comes to Jesus, but I’d be with him when it comes to many of his current so called followers. There is so much religious noise inside Christianity, so “adapting” much goal post moving that I would request to see first in order to believe something about many entities to be considered to be Christian.
The good thing about Thomas is that he was in discomfort, but not completely unbelieving. He was spiritually uncertain, but desired to have certainty back. He wishes to see the Saviour; and as he sees, and he believes.
We have a different type of discomfort these days, if that poll can be trusted. “However, these negative feelings towards religious Gourps don’t necessarily translate to religious intolerance, but more of a “nervousness” or “discomfort” from a modern-day society that does not know how to include religion anymore.” We might object who came first here, and if the poll reflects the results of the results are a reflex from polls. Anyhow, what becomes clear is that society may be in discomfort because they would rather not have the Church playing a role in it anymore. The difference is: Thomas wanted to see to believe. The poll suggests that even if we want to show Jesus there seem to be no willingness to go and see.
It starts with discomfort, we have seen this before. Then the next step comes, intolerance. We see that in the passage from Acts.
2 – INTOLERANCE
The Council in Jerusalem was already beyond discomfort. Jesus started the uproar and they dealt with that discomfort as they could, until it escalated to intolerance, enragement and crucifixion. They thought they have pierced all the trouble and killed it with Him on that cross, but His resurrection brought the discomfort back.
Three thousand were already converted on Pentecost Day. The miracles were abounding. The followers of the Way were cropping up all over the place. Discomfort doesn’t encompass the feeling anymore. It escalates.
However we have the wise counsel of Gamaliel when they are brought before authorities. Words not only wise but precise in describing how things work in the Kingdom. If what those fishermen were doing was from human initiative, it wouldn’t prosper. If it came from God, it couldn’t be stopped.
God didn’t promise to act through our opinions, our feelings, or our moods. He acts with His Word through us. If we suffer for things we tweaked, invented or perverted from the Word all we have is suffering in vain. However when we suffer for Jesus’ name as revealed in His Word and Teaching we can rejoice in the sufferings for they are the result of the fruits of the Spirit in action through us.
The disciples end up in prison. They end up before the authorities. They end up suffering in the name of Jesus. The message though, would not end there.
3 – PEACE
In the midst of all discomfort, in the heat of all rage and intolerance, at the height of any suffering that may come our way, one thing never changes: the peace that comes from Jesus. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Where does this peace come from? It comes from His wounds, His hands, His side, all touched by Thomas. It comes from the forgiveness He won on His cross. It comes from the promise of the resurrection and the life that will never end. Peace that surpasses all understanding and yet fits in size perfectly for our human hearts.
It is the peace that comes to us in our “spiritually uncertain” moments we may have. It’s the peace that prompts us from ‘privately faithful” to the public square confession of our faith when the opportunity arises, like the first Christians did. The peace that has transformed unbelieving hearts, unbelieving societies in temples of the Holy Spirit, going against the grain of polls, pride and pressures.
4 – PEACE IN DISCOMFORT AND INTOLERANCE
Peter and the apostles answered to the authorities, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
This is a bold discourse for sure. But why would people want to kill them? Was it that bad? Well, think about things we would say today that, if people wouldn’t perhaps kill us but they will be very discomforted to say the least.
There is just one God
There is just one way to God
Hell is a real place
Life begins at conception.
And so many others. When we put it this way we can understand what the poll says. Christianity has always discomforted and enraged people, and it will always do so. That’s why we need Christ’s unchangeable peace for the discomfort, intolerance and persecution that may be coming our way. If we remain firm in Christ, standing up in His word and fearlessly witnessing his teaching as it is, we know what we’ll get though. Christians before us have gone the same path. It might be our turn. As one of the paragraphs of that report says, “what was once considered a “social benefit” of being considered religious there is now a social cost”. Some even think that Christianity as we know it could come to and end in Canada by 2040.
It sounds gloomy, but the disciples give us a great example. They rejoiced for being worthy of suffering for Christ’s name.
We don’t need to be doubting Thomas, “If God will show me a sign I the midst of all of this then I will be reassured and strong in my faith in the midst of today’s society”. Thomas was already Thomas; we don’t need a second one. We can be the no-seeing believer Jesus calls blessed. But here is some news for you: there are some concrete realities, signs you can constantly resort to in order to have your faith strengthened. Word and Sacraments. They are the visible reality of Christ’s presence in us, for us her at Church, every week. Don’t miss them out! They are the source of our Peace.
Cc – Through the discomforts of this life, through the intolerance that might knock at our door, in the doubtful moments of our existence: Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” If the polls will continue to bring a discouraging message, His Peace is our encouraging present and our promising future.
And by the way, Christianity as we know it will not end in 2040, I guarantee you. Well, unless that’s the year Jesus chooses to fulfill the words in Revelation chapter 1. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so.” If that’s the case, that is the year we will be so looking forward to.
 https://globalnews.ca/news/8759564/canada-religion-society-perceptions/ Access: April, 2022