Remember when you were scared as a kid, hiding under the covers. The covers were comforting as you hid from the danger, from whatever scared you. Having just read “A Nightmare in my Closet” to Rowan & Hannah, I was reminded of this. Of course, as we grow up, we no longer hide under the covers, but we do still hide from what we fear, and fear can control a 7 year old as it can control a 37 year old, as it can a 70 year old.
Just ask the disciples. They locked themselves away. They feared being caught, jailed, and even crucified. Hidden away they could not proclaim their faith. Hidden away they could not live out their faith. They had effectively covered themselves with a blanket in that locked room. Its not that they hadn’t heard the Good News, Mary Magdalene had already told them that she had seen the risen Lord and what Jesus had told her.
Did they believe her? Did they doubt the resurrection? Whatever it was, they couldn’t practice resurrection, they couldn’t celebrate, they couldn’t let go for fear had a hold of them. But they never guessed it would be Jesus who would end that fear, for Jesus burst into their midst, standing among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Peace. Something the disciples had not known for days after the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. Peace. It was an unexpected gift, much like the resurrection, and to remove any doubt, Jesus shows his wounds and the disciples rejoice and they begin to feel that peace. But his peace is not just a sit and be quiet sort of peace, this is a peace that is full of go and do. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus presence helps set them free from their fear, and it begins their ministry in the world. Jesus sends them out of their locked, fear full rooms, and into the world. This morning, Jesus comes into our lives this Easter, bursting into our locked rooms, letting his light on our fears. Peace he says to you and me; and we no longer need that security blanket, for God is with us, calling us to go forth.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “Strange, that again and again, precisely in the hour we most ardently hope for Jesus' presence, we lock the door to him in fear of many other things. But far more wonderful, that Jesus does not let himself be hindered by those locked doors. The resurrected one does not let himself be held up by humanity on his way to humanity.”
Jesus will not be held back by our fears or locked doors, he still comes into our lives. That is where faith comes into play, for it is our faith that can help us at did the disciples to overcome our fears. But Jesus not only gives them peace, he gives them the Holy Spirit, breathing on them and helping them feel that God is fully present with them in that moment and as they go forth. It is the same Spirit we are given at Baptism that still surrounds us today, a Spirit that will not let our faith sit still or stay in fear.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and action.”
We are called to love and act, for the peace that Jesus gives is a peace that also sends us out. Each and every week, we are fed here spiritually and sometimes if you go to Coffee Hour, your also fed there too, and then we go back into the world to pass on what we have received here. For Church isn’t just about our own feeding so we can feel good about ourselves, but God is in our midst to lift us up out of what we fear, so we in turn can lift others, to look around and practice resurrection.
Tomorrow is Yom Ha Shoah, the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust when we remember the 6 million Jews and others who were systematically murdered by the Nazis in WW II. But that call to remember is also to be a witness for today and to act now to prevent it from ever happening again. It is another way for us to practice resurrection wherever we may be.
For a nurse from Massachusetts, she went to Darfur in Sudan to work among the victims of a current genocide. “She wrote to her friends back home that, despite the all horrors she had seen, she never cried until one day three months into her tour. She and her nutrition team had just made porridge. The children were called to eat. Two brothers, five and two, caught her attention. After washing, in silence, they scraped the plate clean and then allowed the worker to wash their hands and faces again. Then the five-year-old stooped down to let his little brother climb on his back and, silently, the two went off to play. That's when the tears came. The nurse writes: "I watched the kids eat porridge and thought, do children at home even eat porridge anymore? And if they do, how much do they complain about it first. Perhaps they want Cocoa Puffs or Sugar Bears or 'something else.' And I realized I had witnessed one of the realities for the children in Darfur. Eating will never be about choice; it will always be about opportunity. This realization seemed amplified by their silence. They never said a word. I noticed the silence, and it filled me with deep sadness ... it was the intensity of the silence that was so disturbing. A fear that perhaps, if they made any noise or moved too quickly, the food would disappear or the provider would change their mind and take the food away. A learned reaction to a desperation that I never knew as a child and will never truly understand."
["When the tears came" by Grace M. Deveney, The Boston Globe, December 21, 2004.]
If we stay inaccessible in our own world, overwhelmed by our anxieties and everyday struggles, we can become paralyzed by fear. But in the outrageously Good News of Easter, God in Jesus calls us to see beyond our own fears, to move beyond our locked rooms, to take off the covers and to acknowledge the blessings we have received and the blessings we have to share, to see in this Eastertide that God is still with us, calling us to go forth & to act on those blessings & practice resurrection (in Sudan, in Monroe, wherever we may be). Amen.