This sermon was prepared for St. John’s United, Marathon, on April 19th, a live-streamed worship service for Easter 2, Year A, sermon based on John 20:19-31.
Little did we know, a month and a half ago, that we were going to set out on a country-wide dramatic retelling of the Easter story.
We’ve all had a little while to get into character now, and suddenly it’s our time to step onto the stage and play the part of the huddled and frightened followers, gathering in their locked home, anxious to leave, worried about what the future will hold.
So tell me, how has it been? How are you feeling? Share with one another in the comments, because what we’re doing right now is we’re living out, and living into, this Biblical story – our daily lives have been its interpretation.
How are you feeling? [time of sharing]
In the locked room I’ve been living in, tempers can flare, nights can be sleepless, energy is low, and I’m ever thankful that the smallest in our family doesn’t know what’s going on.
Sometimes when we imagine Jesus’ followers we only see 12 identical men in long robes with scruffy beards. But he was supported by women, he made them his co-ministers and apostles. He was followed by families; children and the elderly were brought to him to be healed.
The families, gathered in the locked room looked an awful lot like our families do.
Their fears and anxieties, though coming from a different place, looked an awful lot like our fears and anxieties do.
Jesus, the Teacher they saw died and buried, who they’ve heard had been sighted by Mary, appears amongst his friends, who’ve been deeply troubled, and he greets them saying: Peace be with you.
Peace in the face of their anxiety, their fear, their uncertainty about the future.
It is a simple but challenging message.
It honours those feelings the disciples carried with them.
Like the Princess Bride, when Jesus says “Peace” he was really saying “I love you”, “I see you”.
Jesus does not appear in the locked room and chastise his followers for not going about as everything is normal. He doesn’t scoff at their desire to see, to understand that he is truly who he says he is – he shows them his wounds. He is patient with them.
He offers them the strength and resources they’ll need to do the work he is sending them out to do – he breathes his Spirit-breath on them.
Jesus also doesn’t belittle Thomas who, likely out buying toilet paper, missed out on this life-changing experience. Thomas, too, wants to see his teacher for himself. So Jesus reappears and greets Thomas tenderly. He understands the feeling of loss Thomas is experiencing.
Jesus’ extension of peace not only honours the feelings that his followers are experiencing, his greeting is a call to restoration of relationship.
The idea of “peace” (eiréné) has to do with “completeness”, “wholeness”.[i]
So when Jesus returns and greets his friends – friends who have betrayed and rejected him – he is also extending forgiveness to them.
He doesn’t call them cowards or traitors, he greets them as beloved, modelling God’s intention for Her whole world – that broken relationships would be restored.
Remember, relationship with Jesus and his Father is the central desire in John’s Gospel. When his friends huddle in fear, followingsightings of his resurrected body, they’re not out looking for him!
Because, what could the Teacher have to say to those who abandoned him?
Are they hiding in fear of the those who persecuted and killed Jesus, or are they hiding in anxious worry about what their Teacher has to say to them?
But remember, Jesus has already told us he doesn’t come to judge but to save – to restore.[ii]
We are also are huddled together, battling with our anxiety, our fear, and our uncertainty.
We’re worried about what this global pandemic will mean for us: How long our lives will be disrupted? Will someone we love will be effected by it? Wondering what our new normal will look like once everything is done.
We’re worried about what climate chaos means for us, for our home, for the land, and wondering how life will have to change because of it.
Jesus says to us: Peace.
Peace in the face of our anxiety, our fear, and our uncertainty about the future.
Peace as a promise of restoration now, and to come.
He breathes spirit into our lives, to accompany us on the journey of life; he commissions us to go out into the world and continue his work.
We are followers of the Peace-Bringer, and we are called to share that message of peace with one another. As St. Francis puts it: when necessary, to use words.
So know, in this time of anxiety and fear, your feelings are not a betrayal. God sees where we’re at, She makes Herself known in our world – through mysterious and unexpected ways – knowing we need the continued assurance of Her love – Her peace.
Then, She breathes her own Spirit into us, strengthening us for the work we are sent out to do.
Thanks be to God. Amen.