A sermon preached for Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho
April 26, 2020
We’re moving through the resurrection texts, and today we move to John’s gospel. In John’s gospel, Mary encounters Jesus in the garden, early in the morning. And she goes and tells the disciples, and Peter and John race back to the tomb. Our story picks up today later that night. As soon as the Good News of Mary’s Easter message is shared with the disciples—“I have seen the Lord!”—as soon as they hear those words, we are told that they are hiding in a house, curtains drawn, TV and lights off, the doors locked. They are afraid.
“Christ is risen! Draw the curtains and lock the doors!”
I find great comfort to know that we are not alone in our fear and doubt and worries. People who were eyewitnesses have the same experiences we do.
Somewhere in the back of our minds, I think, is the notion that, “well, if I would have been there, if I would have seen for myself, then I’d have all of the faith I need.”
But the truth is, faith comes to us much as it did to the eyewitnesses. As we said last week, there is not an advantage to being eyewitness to the resurrection. Faith comes when we believe the stories others tell of where they have seen resurrection.
And, no matter how good the Good News, we know what it is to be afraid, to wake up in the middle of the night, to worry about financial concerns, to wonder if our loved ones are healthy, to be sad about the things we’ve lost.
The Good News of Easter doesn’t get rid of the things in the world that leave us scared. War, violence, economic uncertainties, disease, pandemics, and spiders, perhaps, all scare us just as much on this side of Easter as they did before.
But as the disciples are huddled behind locked doors, afraid that the religious leaders are after them next, Jesus appears to them. “Peace be with you”, he says. That night, in the darkness of a blacked out room, the Good News of the Resurrection meant that while they could hide from the religious leaders and the other things that scared them, they couldn’t hide from the peace of God.
Their locked doors and their hushed voices didn’t seem to deter the risen Jesus. Peace be with you. And just like that, their fear turns to rejoicing.
And then he again tells them, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” In the midst of the fear, in the midst of the joy, Jesus brings both the peace of God and the sending of God.
Thomas shows up late. He missed the first encounter with the risen Jesus. He wasn’t locked away and hiding—at least not with the other disciples. So maybe “fearful” isn’t the word used to describe Thomas. But I think it is unfortunate that the word he gets instead is “doubting”.
Perhaps we should call him “I want to see it firsthand” Thomas.
Perhaps we should call him, “I’m happy for you that you had that great Jesus experience, but I need to have my own” Thomas.
Whatever we call him, Thomas doesn’t get chastised for his doubts or pronouncements about what he needs. Jesus meets Thomas where he is, and offers him the wounds in his hands and his side. He invites Thomas into the painful places of his own life, or death, as it were.
And Thomas comes to faith in the presence of the most visible signs of the pain and brokenness of the world—the broken and wounded body of Jesus of Nazareth.
So, you can barricade the doors and hide away in fear because of whatever it is that is troubling you, but know this—God will meet you there, breaking through your defenses and bringing you peace.
And God, in the person of Jesus, knows first hand what there is to fear in the world because he bears the marks of the wounds in his hands and in his side. And we’re invited, like Thomas, to see that connection. To remember that we are not alone. To feel the very breath of God bringing the Holy Spirit and giving us peace.
Wherever we see the pain of the world on the hands and in the sides of God’s children, we are to proclaim that Christ is risen, that God has been where they are. We have seen his hands and have been invited to touch his wounds.
There’s a song by Nickel Creek called Doubting Thomas.
In it, Thomas acknowledges his fears—of his own inadequacy, of his lack of courage. But the song ends on a more hopeful note.
I’m a doubting Thomas
I’ll take your promise
Though I know nothin’s safe
Oh me of little faith
Even as he acknowledges that nothing is safe, and that there is plenty out there to fear, he also says he’ll take God’s promise. Perhaps the refrain “oh me of little faith” is not such a bad thing.
In this time of worries and doubts and fears, perhaps we just need a little. faith.
Perhaps we don’t need large buckets full of faith.
Perhaps we just need the littlest amount of faith that allows us to see the wounded body of Christ and recognize that even in the midst of that kind of pain, love wins. None of the wounding of the world could keep Jesus from his disciples when they were locked in the house of their fear.
As Jesus brings us the peace of God, he also sends his disciples out into the world. Many of us are still finding ways to get peace out into the world, even as we’re locked in our homes. I hope we will take time to ponder how we want to be sent when the restrictions lift, when the vaccine is developed.
One thing that has occurred to me in the past six weeks is that we are making time now to connect with people in ways we weren’t doing before. Yes, we saw people in person more often before, perhaps, but in my case, it wasn’t always intentional. I’d see a friend at the grocery store and say, “we should get together”. But how often did we make that happen? I would go through life, busy and distracted, head in the future, not making time for connections.
And now, I’m setting up zoom game nights with my friends, and zoom happy hours, and zoom family chats. We could have been doing that before this. What will our connections to each other be when we get sent out of our houses?
Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former Surgeon General of the US was interviewed by Brene Brown, about his book Together.
In that podcast, he said,
How is Jesus going to send us? The command in the gospel is fairly vague, there’s lots of room for interpretation, but we are sent to be like Jesus.
And Jesus shows up in the locked up places where people are afraid. Jesus shows them his wounds and brings them peace. Jesus sends us to do likewise.
Whenever we can leave our locked upper rooms, we are to be sent into relationships that bring peace, that show connection in woundedness, and that meet us wherever we hide. I pray we will be intentional about the world we build, working to create community, noticing when people fall through the cracks, working to bring everyone toward health, wholeness, and a flourishing life.
Let us take our little faith out to bring God’s peace to people hiding in fear, isolation, and worry. It is enough.
Peace be with you.
Peace be with you.