May 1, 2022 – Worship

Beyond Doubt – (John 20:19-31)

      Let me share with you my childhood memory of my dad who did a specific thing before he went to bed. It was sort of his daily routine that played out every night. It happened around midnight that I used to hear the familiar footsteps of my dad walking to the front door, then to the back door, and then to the windows… My dad would walk through the house and check all the doors and windows and secure locks if need be. I believe it gave my family a safe feeling—knowing that dad was making everything safe and secure. It gave us a sense of comfort—knowing that all the doors and windows were locked.

Now every night I do the same thing as my dad did. Before going to bed, I walk through the house and check the doors and widows and lock them up. I do this, hoping that my family would have a safe feeling through knowing what I do every night.

Well, it’s true that locked doors and windows relieved fears, anxieties, and uncertainties. And, perhaps that is what the disciples felt in today’s gospel.

It was Easter evening – the day Peter and John saw the empty tomb – the day Mary Magdalene announced, “I have seen the Lord.” The disciples were hiding in the house, the doors were locked with fear. Then, a week later, they are in the same place. It is the same as the week before – the same house, the same closed doors, the same locks. Nothing much has changed.

The disciples were so afraid and frightened because those who had killed Jesus were furious to hear the news that the tomb was empty. It seemed they would stop at nothing in order to eliminate Jesus, his teachings and maybe even his followers. The disciples felt that the only security and comfort they could find was in locking themselves up, away from the world.

In a way we understand the disciples, but look. Do you see the irony here? When the disciples are gathered behind locked doors, Jesus is not there in the tomb. God has already opened the tomb; Jesus is risen. You see, the irony is that Jesus’ tomb is open and empty and the disciples’ house is closed and the doors locked tight. Jesus is on the loose and the disciples are bound in fear. The disciples have separated themselves and their lives from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

In today’s gospel, when John describes the house, the doors, the locks, he is speaking about more than a physical house with walls, doors on hinges, and deadbolts. He is describing the interior condition of the disciples. For them it was fear… What locked them up was fear. 

Now I encourage you to think about your life. Reflect on what’s happening within you, inside of you, rather than what’s going on outside or around you…

What are the doors that are locked in your life? What are the things that keep you stuck in the closed doors? Perhaps, like the disciples, it is fear. Some might lock the doors and live in guilt and past regrets. For others it might be sorrow and loss or anger and resentment. Or it may be the refusal to change. There are thousands of different locks on the doors of our lives, and they are always locked from the inside.

You know, I said what we see in the story of the disciples today is the irony since Jesus has already been risen, the tomb is empty. Well, this irony makes us think and wonder if we, like the disciples, are also living in the same irony.

What I mean by that is… Easter was two weeks ago… I wonder, two weeks after Easter, is our life different because of Easter? Are you living differently today than you did before Easter? Do you see and engage your life and the world in some new ways? Or are you still living the same as you were stuck in fear, sorrow, anger, or confusion before Easter? What difference has Easter made in your life over the last two weeks?

When I look at the world, it seems pretty much the same as before. Before Easter there was illness and death. After Easter there is still illness and death. Before Easter there was pain and brokenness in the world. After Easter there’s still pain and brokenness in the world.

When I look at my life, it looks a whole lot like it did before Easter. And I have to ask myself, “Why isn’t my life different after Easter?” I should be doing better than before. I should be living more powerfully and more fully than before. But things today don’t really look different from what they looked like before Easter. What do we do with that?

We know the usual answers. Jesus overcame death. Sins are forgiven and we are saved. We have eternal life.  Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Well, on most days I believe it and live into it. But, to be honest with you, there comes a time when we struggle with fear, anxiety, a sense of uncertainty, and what to do with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. I don’t know about you, but I have been there.  Have you ever struggled with that?

Today we see Thomas who is also struggling with that when he says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

That one sentence has left Thomas forever labeled Doubting Thomas. But was Thomas just doubting Jesus’ resurrection? Maybe was he so struggling and wrestling with how to believe, what to believe in that he wanted to see and touch? To me, it seems that Thomas is not just doubting, but he really wants to believe.

The story of Thomas tells us that resurrection is difficult to accept, to believe. Because it’s not just an idea that we memorize and recite or a fact to which we give agreement or assent. Instead, it is a way of living – a life to be lived. Ultimately it is a whole new way of being… which means it takes time.

Resurrection takes time. It is not a one-time event. It is something that we grow into. It is a lifetime process. By the grace of God we grow into resurrected people – Easter people – who embody resurrection faith through our relationships and the circumstances of our lives. Every day we are stepping into the resurrected life. It’s not always easy and some days are just extremely difficult.

But there is the good news. The good news is that Jesus is always stepping through the locked doors of our lives as he stepped through the walls and locked doors and showed up in the midst of the disciples. Yes, no matter what it is that locks ourselves in, Jesus steps into our closed lives, our closed hearts and minds. He offers peace and breaths the Holy Spirit into us. He doesn’t open the door for us because that’s our part to do, but he gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, new possibilities, a new way of being. This is happening all the time.

When you are in prayer for yourself or someone you care for, in a deep interior silence, willing to surrender to God in everything that happens, Jesus enters saying, “Peace be with you.”

Each month sixty through seventy families come to the church to receive food from the Good Samaritan Food Pantry. There are no boundaries of race, gender, education, ethnicity… All are welcomed as valuable clients. Volunteers serve them with food, smiles, conversations, and sometimes prayers. In the midst of that sharing, Jesus enters saying, “Peace be with you.”  

      One day I was deeply troubled. Something unexpected happened to me and that made me suffer a lot. So many ill thoughts and emotions overwhelmed and distracted me that I lost my appetite and couldn’t sleep at all. Anger, resentment, frustration closed my doors. And I opened the Bible and began to meditate on the passage of the day for my daily prayer practice with Scripture.

      By the grace of God, God’s words for the day entered into my broken heart and troubled mind, touched me in my wounds and hurts, and restored me to healing and a sense of dignity. In the midst of trials and tribulation, Jesus enters saying, “Peace be with you.” His breath of peace carries us through the day, one day at a time.

My friends, what are the locked doors in your life that need to be unlocked and opened in order for you to live more fully? As we humbly seek him, and as we even struggle and wrestle with the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, like Thomas and like any of us, Jesus continues to step into our midst, through the locked doors, and breathes peace, hope, strength, courage, and life into us. And that breath of the Spirit has the power to change us, not necessarily our circumstances and world, but it transforms us so that we might unlock and open the doors and step outside into a new life. Every time we unlock and open the doors we’ve locked, we step into the resurrected life. Easter truly makes a difference in our lives. And the Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!      Amen.