In pm's words
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April 4, 2016, 9:00 AM

the one where Jesus gives us peace...


Sermon from April 3, 2016

Text: John 20: 19-31

Grace and peace to y’all from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

Traditionally as we read this text – which if you didn’t know comes up every year during this, the second Sunday of Easter – we’ve heard it titled in a pretty specific way. It’s a title to this short excerpt from John’s Gospel that has painted an individual within this story in a very particular way, and not in a very flattering light. But, if you’ve been listening to me during my short time here as your pastor – you probably already know how I might feel about the titles that we are given for all of those well-known Gospel stories. I don’t really like how many of the ‘titles’ of particular parts of the gospel story have been labeled. They keep us from really reading them again and again because once it’s titled it is difficult to see past that one interpretation of the text.

The gospel story we have this morning is one that is very familiar to us and it occurs immediately after the resurrection of our Lord. In fact, it occurs that very night.

But, something is a bit strange, something seems off. Jesus’ friends and disciples have been given the most amazing news possible. Their Lord, their friend – the messiah and Son of God – is no longer in the tomb because he lives again. He has risen! You would think that the disciples and followers of the Risen Jesus would be out in force within the streets. Screaming to all who could hear:

Jesus has overcome death.

Jesus has turned from zero to hero.

Jesus is alive!

You’d think that would be something to celebrate. In fact, just look at our last Sunday on Easter morning. This place was packed as was pretty much every other place of worship around the country and world. We came together and sang hymns of praise and celebration. We continued (and continue) to shout alleluia from the mountaintops of our lives! We shout he is risen! We still wish those around us a happy and blessed Easter. All the candles within our worship space are lit. The excitement and presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable.

You’d think that the excitement at the news of our Lord’s rising from the dead and the empty tomb would last longer than a few hours.

Yet, that evening the disciples are scared.

They’ve locked themselves in a room away from those who would wish to do them harm.

The dangers and ‘realities’ of life seem more powerful and threatening than the joy of the empty tomb.

Just a few hours after the news of Jesus’ resurrection, his closest friends and disciples are in the midst of confusion, anxiety, and fear. The collective sense of ‘what do we do now?’ and ‘where do we go from here?’ are driving their thoughts and actions. They are witness to the greatest wonder of the world, yet they aren’t out there proclaiming it – instead they are holed up in a locked room out of fear of those around them.

Now, because of how this part of the gospel has been titled, there is a tendency to just look at those disciples (not just the one) and think, ‘oh bless their little hearts…’ in the most flattering-insult tone we can muster.

But, then if we are prone to do that (which I’m sure each and every one of us probably has at one point in their life) I’d push us all a little bit.

If we look upon the disciples in our text this morning and think, “Oh those silly and foolish disciples – they still don’t get it!” I’d ask you, “so – what you’d you do on Easter Monday? How was your week in proclaiming the risen Lord to all those around you?” Does the energy and excitement from Easter Sunday still flow through you today?

My guess is that after Easter Sunday a lot of that excitement fizzled out. Sure we filled our social media feeds with countless pictures of flowers, scripture texts, and wrote and responded to countless posts of “Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

But, the pull and the drain of the world quickly sucks us back in. The brief glimmer of hope and grace of the resurrection gets drowned out by the world and its attitudes around us. For the briefest of moments; the locked doors of our lives were opened to the wonder, mystery, and beauty of the resurrection.

But, then the fears and those doors that we hoped to burst open and through came back again.

When given the opportunity to tell someone about God’s love for them – we might’ve thought – “oh they probably already know that. Easter was yesterday. I’m sure they went to their church.”

We may have read something on the internet or heard from a friend about a story that continued to disparage those who are different – that didn’t live into the new commandment of love that we have been given by Christ. We didn’t push back from that line of that and those words of hate because – well, that’s just Doug – he doesn’t really mean it. Stacy is just joking like usual. Besides if I said anything I’d probably just make things worse.

We might have seen someone in need on the side of the road, but we didn’t stop to help because well – they are probably just conning me and others. If I help, it’ll only give them reason to keep doing it.

Or perhaps you want to proclaim and shout and give voice to God’s love in the lives of those around you, but because of what you might suffer from it holds you back.

I can’t proclaim the love of God in Christ our Lord because I don’t feel worthy of God’s love or don’t think there are those that love me. Why would they listen?

I want to point to the resurrection, but I really don’t know how to explain it all and I’m scared of the questions that they might ask me. I don’t want to look stupid.

I want to believe and to share – but, I’m afraid – afraid of what others might think, or say, or ask for. I’m afraid because I have questions and thoughts. It all seems too good to be true. If I don’t have it figured out, how am I supposed to invite others into this life too?

No matter how we hear and experience the resurrection and are called to be witnesses like those first women at the tomb – the locked doors of our lives and our minds seem so strong and sturdy. Impenetrable to the love that God exudes in Christ’s resurrection for us.

Much like Jesus’ disciples, we too find ourselves behind those locked doors.

We too seek the ‘data’ that Thomas asks for.

We step back, we don’t move. We stay locked in the room – even amid the crazy excitement and energy of this new thing that God has done.

And then in pops Jesus.

In our story – pretty literally.

Jesus appears in the room with his friends in spite of the locked doors.

Now, if I was there I probably wouldn’t be too excited. I’d probably be freaking out.

One, because Jesus is there and the door never opened.

Two, because I’m in here and not out there spreading the news.

I’m sure the disciples have the racing thought of, “Oh man, we are so going to get it now…”

Yet, Jesus’ words to his friends and disciples is not one of anger or rudeness or snark or disappointment. Instead Jesus speaks the words that I think all of us need to hear and listen to. Those words that burst through locked doors and fill those ‘rooms’ of our lives where we hide with love and presence.

Peace be with you.

Words so important to hear that Jesus says it twice.

Peace be with you. I’m with you. I send you. The Spirit leads you.

He then comes again the following week to give that sense of peace and presence to Thomas. He doesn’t chastise him or belittle him. Jesus gives to him what he needs to continue to point to the risen Lord.

Throughout our lives – even in the midst of the excitement and energy of Easter – we still find ourselves behind the locked doors of our lives. The locked doors and tombs that seem so stubborn and real to us. Those places in which we hide for fear of how others will see us, view us, or treat us.

Those locked rooms have so many names – fear. Anxiety. Addiction. Stubbornness. Disease. And more.

In the promise and reality of the resurrection – Jesus steps into those locked rooms of our lives. Jesus bursts open the doors with words of peace, presence, and mission.

Peace be with you.

I’m here.

I send you.

We do hide within the locked doors of our lives. We do shut ourselves off from the world even when we hear the grace-filled news of the resurrection.

Jesus continues to step into those moments. Bringing us peace, reminding us of his presence, and sending us out.

Not alone. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in the community of the Body of Christ.

No matter how strong of a lock or how encompassing of a room in your life that you feel keeps you from proclaiming the good news of the resurrection; know that Jesus comes into that space. Not to chastise, not to reprimand. Not to demean or belittle.

Jesus steps into those rooms to free us from the bonds and chains that shackle us into inactivity. That keep us from being sent. Jesus steps into those moments and places and offers us peace. Jesus has breathed into us the Holy Spirit that guides us in this life of faith – this life of faith that calls and compels us to speak, act, and live out for and in God’s love for us and the world.

Even in our doubts Jesus doesn’t turn from us or turn us away. Jesus comes to give peace so that we might know we are loved and not alone. In that faith of the empty tomb and in that promise of the resurrection – we are sent to proclaim. Amen.

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