This post is part of the Sermon from Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) Sunday, April 19th 2020, The Second Sunday of Easter by our LCM President Caroline Parrott.
Read John 20:19-31
Good morning! Will you pray with me?
"Dear Lord, open our ears to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today, now, and always. Amen."
My name is Caroline Parrott, and I’m a senior here in LCM.
LCM Sunday is always one of my favorite Sundays of the year, and although it’s not quite the exact format I had anticipated, I’m excited to be able to dive into this gospel with you all today. I thought I’d begin by sharing a story with y’all. In the Spring of 2017, I traveled with the LCM crew throughout Germany on our Spring Break trip. This trip was special for a variety of reasons, one, in particular, is that it was the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I’m known throughout LCM as being the biggest Martin Luther nerd, so you can imagine my excitement. Early in our trip, we spent some time in Erfurt. Erfurt was the city where Martin Luther studied, became a monk, and was ordained. We took a tour of Luther’s monastery, and on Sunday morning, we were able to worship with other members of the community. The service was all in German, but the congregation was so kind as to print the Gospel readings in English so we could follow along. However, the best part of that service was the sharing of the peace. Although we didn’t understand the exact translation, we all knew what was being said. We couldn’t communicate with our brothers and sisters in Christ but we shared hugs, handshakes, smiles, and nods -- something that I so wish we could do today.
In the gospel reading, Jesus walks into the room of disciples and says “Peace be with You.” He shows them his hands and side and once again says “Peace be with You.” During this moment, you know the disciples were scared, confused, surprised, and excited. Despite the roller coasters of emotion, Jesus simply says “Peace be with you.” How beautiful!
Peace be with you - a phrase that brings us together and unites us, just like when Jesus was reunited with his disciples. As you’ll see later in the service, the sharing of the peace during LCM services is one of our favorite parts of worship - in that time, we pause during the chaos and uncertainty of our weeks at school and share God’s peace - calming us, uniting us, just as it did in the gospel. Later on in the story, we encounter Thomas. One would consider him a realist, so to speak. He doesn’t believe anything the disciples are saying until he sees it himself. Personally, I find Thomas to be one of the most relatable characters in the story. Throughout this pandemic, I know in my heart that God is here, that God is present, and that God is in control. As a realist, however, when I’m forced out of my classrooms, away from my friends without proper goodbyes, friends with job offers being rescinded, canceling graduation and canceling summer trips that I’ve looked forward to for months, I have to wonder, where is God in all of this?
When I see the number of cases increasing beyond our control and death counts rising and people losing jobs and portable morgues being brought to overwhelmed hospitals, I have to wonder, where is God in all of this? Just as Jesus lets Thomas see His hands and sides, God has shown me His face during this time. I see it in communities rallying together to stay home and stay inside to protect their neighbors - THAT’S God at work.
I see it in the faces behind the masks of healthcare and other essential workers ensuring that we can stay healthy and safe and have access to food - THAT’s God at work.
I see it in friends and family that reach out to check in on each other, making sure we’re not alone and are keeping our mental health a priority - THAT’s God at work. I see it in nature when I look outside - the warm spring air, the smell of rain, irises that haven’t bloomed in years finally blossoming in my backyard, and the baby bunny I found outside of my house - reminding me that springtime and new life aren’t canceled - THAT’s God at work.
In this time where many are doubting God, He still finds a way to show Himself to us. I’m sure Thomas would agree with me that God is present now more than ever. Throughout this season of uncertainty and chaos, I have found comfort in reflecting on the times in my life where God was most present. Not only has it brought me great joy, but it has challenged me to think positively, reminisce, and admire God’s handiwork. Some of these joys have been singing with my fellow LCMers on the wall of a castle in Germany watching the sunset over a small town. I still get chills thinking of this moment. Others include the smiles on the faces of the family in Florida after we re-roofed their house on Spring Break.
I think of the laughs from the youth group in the short time I spent with them during my internship here. I think of the numerous times I’ve cried in the campus center and always had a friend to talk to, hug, or take me to Maple View to get some comforting ice cream.
I think of the generosity of this congregation during every LCM congregational event, every exam period, and every time you made us a delicious home-cooked meal after our worship service. These are all periods of my life where any doubt was totally wiped away. I challenge you all to do the same.
Think of times when you truly felt God’s presence and share them with others. Reach out to friends who have shown you God’s love and thank them. I want to thank you all for the second home you have provided me and my fellow LCMers during our time at UNC.
In my numerous times of doubt during college, I could always count on walking through those red doors and being reminded of God’s presence, truly feeling His hands and sides, and wiping that doubt away.
This improper goodbye is definitely the hardest, and I hope a proper one can come soon. But for now, I will leave you with a phrase that I hope brings you as much comfort as it has to me this Easter season -- “Peace be with you.”