This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, which denotes the birth of the Christian church and the manifestation of God's spirit to all people. Although the above text was the emphasis on the Second Sunday in Easter according to the Gospel of John the breathing of Christ to his disciples was the writer's understanding of what we celebrate in the corporate expression found in Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 illustrates the coming of the Spirit to all flesh at once as opposed to a select few the called Apostles. So the question of the intricacies of power reminds me of a popular expression that came about at the turn of the century about having Pokemon Power. Pokémon are cute and generally friendly little monsters who live in the wild and who, when caught, can be trained to fight for you in the effort to capture more of the little creatures. Or they can simply be pets. The goal of the main character Ash Ketchum, a 10-year-old boy, is to team with his own sometimes uncooperative Pokémon, a little yellow fellow named Pikachu, to become the greatest Pokémon trainer in the world. To do that, he must capture some of the more than 150 little monsters, and train them to capture others - that is, to multiply his own effectiveness.
It's a stretch to compare Ash Ketchum to Jesus the Christ. But kids catch on to the strategy in a nanosecond. It takes the church millenniums. In this game, prepubescent pimples on parade understand that to win you need to multiply yourself.
Jesus called it fishing for men. You could call him Jesus Ketchum, because "ketching" them was what Jesus was about. Both texts that emphasize the coming of the spirit is about catching disciples, catching people with Pokémon power, or, better put, Pentecost power.
And Thomas, the main Pokémon of today's text, wasn't too much help either. Jesus had hoped Thomas would be one of the Twelve who would multiply himself and become a trainer of others. It was Thomas that proclaimed let's go to Jerusalem and die but the Twin as he is called not because of his zodiac sign being a Gemini but like many of us our dichotomy of faith is looking to make sense of power. It didn't happen.
After the crucifixion, Thomas lost it. Although the other Pokémon tell him that they have seen the Risen Lord, Thomas refuses to believe their story. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands," he sputters, "and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (20:25).
As you know, Thomas in fact does see Jesus with his own eyes, making the celebrated statement of faith: "My Lord and my God!" (v.28).
It was too little, too late. We never hear from Thomas again although most scholars believe that he went east and established the church in India.
But, truth is, Thomas opted for Pet status rather than Power status. And that doesn't cut it. But this is a lame excuse for Thomas. All these efforts to rehabilitate Thomas are so five minutes ago, so yesterday. Fact is: Thomas turned out to be a Pet Pokémon. He blew it. Jesus Ketchum is warning us not to go there.
When Jesus captures us, it is not to be a pet, but a person "possessing power from on high." He intends to turn us from monsters into messengers. We are likewise to "capture" others to do the same. Kids get it. The Church needs to. Anything less makes us a dabbling doubter, a tentative Thomas, a passive Pet.
When kids play the game, they use Pokémon cards which they trade with their friends. They're "energy cards" that enable Ash Ketchum to be a Master Trainer. The energy cards are labeled fire, electricity and water. They negotiate deals, count the cost of each move and try to build the best and most powerful collection of cards to succeed at the game. Take a hint from Pokémon, another character "Vulpix," and begin with your fire energy. The early church was nothing without Pentecost, Holy Spirit fire. The church needs to recover its spiritual center to not morph into a Pet church without power. Just as his breath entered the mortal bodies of disciples so that they inhale what the Johannine Jesus exhales, breathing his life, his love, his authority, his triumph over death and darkness.
We can be a Pokémon Church by residing in a culture that is wired and connected and fully computer-literate ahead of the rapid trends of technocracy. Let us on this Pentecost Sunday be reminded of the power source that was given to all of us embodied in the spirit of God. That same spirit that guided Peter and Paul - the original Power Pokémon - didn't hide in synagogues and wait for people to come to them. They took their message into the streets and shot epistles around the entire known world! Jesus Ketchum had little use for the dabbling doubter. It's time to start playing the cards he's dealt us and declare we have Pokemon Power.