April 23, 2019

Alleluia! Christ is arisen.
Bright is the dawning of the Lord's day.
(verse 4)
Thomas, where were you on that evening?
"I'll not believe unless I see."
Christ comes again, and ev'ry Lord's day:
"Touch me and see; have faith in me."
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #375]
The readings for April 28, 2019, the Second Sunday of Easter, are as follows:
The Second Sunday of Easter is unique in that the Gospel reading is the same each year. We've come to know this Sunday by a couple other names:
  1. Low Sunday - because it's traditionally the least attended Sunday of the year. Pastors typically take vacation this Sunday which gives many regular churchgoers additional motivation to stay home.
  2. Doubting Thomas Sunday - because the gospel lesson is the story of Thomas, the apostle who doubted.
The same reading each year offers a challenge to preachers to find something new in the story that they have not preached on or listeners have not heard before (although repetition and redundancy is actually very helpful in this case). This is probably one of the reasons pastors take the week off.
Jesus Appears to Thomas - Jesus Mafa, Cameroon, West Africa
For those who may not recall the story, Jesus makes one of his miraculous appearances to the disciples on the evening of his resurrection as they sat in a locked room, afraid. Thomas wasn't there, and when his friends told him what they had seen, he was unimpressed.
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe," he said.
Eight days later, he got his wish. Jesus again appeared and removed all doubt.
" Put your finger here and see my hands ," Jesus says. " Reach out your hand and put it in my side ."
Thomas responds, "My Lord and my God!" To which Jesus replies, " Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe ."
I was prompted by a sermon I heard over the weekend to pick up a book I hadn't read for a while. It's called  Peculiar Treasures by Fred Buechner, and accurately subtitled, " a Biblical Who's Who ."
In the book, Buechner briefly profiles Thomas, ending with words that lay bare our most censored thoughts, and underscore why it's helpful, year after year, to hear the story of Thomas. Buechner writes:
"Even though [Jesus] said the greater blessing is for those who can believe without seeing, it's hard to imagine that there's a believer anywhere who wouldn't have traded places with Thomas, given the chance, and seen that face and heard that voice and touched those ruined hands." [1]
I couldn't agree more.
The emphasis on Thomas in this Sunday's Gospel also makes a tragic connection with the horrific Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. Legend has it that Thomas was one of the five apostles who, in the first century, travelled to the east to evangelize the region of India.
Map of Sri Lanka attacks courtesy New York Times
According to Philip Pfatteicher, in his  New Book of Festivals and Commemorations , [2]  the third-century  Acts of Thomas says he entered India as a carpenter, preached the gospel, performed miracles, and died a martyr at Mylapore near Madras.
"St. Thomas Christians" are claimed to be an ancient body of professing Christians on the east and west coasts of India. They claim spiritual descent from Thomas.
Christians, primarily Roman Catholics, make up only 6 percent of the population of Sri Lanka, and two per cent of the population in India. However, their faith has been increasingly under attack by militants and politicians across South and Southeast Asia.
I invite your prayers for the people of Sri Lanka, and for the victims of violent attacks everywhere.
God, our refuge and strength, amid all the turmoil of this world, your love is steadfast, and your strength never fails. Comfort the people of Sri Lanka as they mourn the tragic and senseless loss of human life. Save us all from sectarian violence and discord. Inspire us by your Spirit to work for the healing of divisions and strive for peace. Teach us to love each other and respect one another's diverse expression of faith. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen
This Thursday and Friday I will be on the campus of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus for the annual Nelson W. Trout Lectures. Bishop Trout (1920-1996), was a Trinity Lutheran Seminary alumnus, a member of the Trinity faculty, and the first African American elected to serve as a Lutheran bishop.
This year's lecturer is the Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, founding pastor of City of Refuge UCC in Oakland, California. She is a renowned preacher, educator and Gospel music artist.
Saturday will find me at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Smithville for our Northeastern Ohio Synod Council meeting.
As a result of our Synod Council meeting on Saturday, the Lutheran Center (Synod offices) will be closed once again next Monday. So for the second week in a row, Monday Musings will publish on Tuesday.
This Easter and always, may we rejoice in each day, because it is the day that the Lord has made.
+Bishop Abraham Allende

[1]  Buechner, Frederick.  Peculiar Treasures . Harper San Francisco, 1979 (p. 188)
[2]  Pfatteicher, Philip.  New Book of Festivals and Commemorations. Fortress Press Minneapolis, 2008 (p. 617)