“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.” ~ Fulton OurslerOn that first Easter, I bet the disciples felt that way, regret for not standing by Jesus, fleeing at his arrest, denying him before others. Now its evening and they are locked away for they fear the future: arrest, torture and crucifixion. They do not know what to expect, Jesus is gone, its all over and they have locked themselves up to be safe. Reminds me of a poem by Shel Silverstein:
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,The disciples would not hatch, they wouldn’t go out. Only Thomas is not with them, God knows where, maybe they already got him.
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplane roar,
So I'm staying in here where it's safe and it's warm,
And I WILL NOT HATCH!
Fear had a hold on them and it is Jesus himself who comes to set them free. Peace be with you Jesus said to the disciples and showed them him his wounds, and they remembered and they believed and their fear turned to Joy and again Jesus said, Peace be with you and he breathed on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. And he would do the same for Thomas a week later.
As the author and pastor Frederick Buechner put it, “for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.”
And as the disciples left that locked room, with Christ’s peace and love in their hearts, in their being, it did put them in places of struggle.
Think of our first reading from Acts:
"When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. We are witnesses to these things.”The Spirit of God gave them the strength to stand up for their faith and be a witness to Jesus and to what had taken place. They were no longer locked away in fear, but the Spirit was with them.
As we continue to celebrate the resurrection – new life in Jesus & the Spirit’s gift to guide us – I am also aware that today is Yom Hashoah - the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust of WW II.
We remember the evil of Nazism and its attempt to not only annihilate the Jewish people but anybody who stood in their way. I think of Professor Kurt Huber who was one of those in Germany who stood up to the Nazis and who was executed for his resistance (part of the White Rose – a small student led movement in Munich).
We also remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and martyr whose writings and resistance to Nazism, has helped many come to terms with what we as Christians need to do when we face evil.
And yet, Bonhoeffer like the disciples before him struggled with his role. When his sister and brother in law asked him to lead the funeral for his brother in law’s father, a non believer, Bonhoeffer was warned by his church not to conduct the funeral of a non-church member, and so he refused. By November, Bonhoeffer regretted this and he apologized to his sister and brother in law:
“How could I have been so terribly afraid? . . . I must ask you both to forgive me my weakness. Today I know for certain that I should have done otherwise.”When Bonhoeffer came to the US for a position at Union Seminary in New York in mid 1939. He soon decided that leaving Germany was a mistake. He wrote to Reinhold Neibuhr,
“I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. . . I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people.”All the fear that held him back was gone when he returned, for he would lead the underground confessing church movement in Germany, continue to actively resist all that the Nazis did and ultimately was arrested in 1943, he was tried and hanged by the SS in 1945.
The last words of Bonhoeffer were: “This is the end, for me the beginning of life.”
It is the Spirit of God who was with him through all the resistance, his trails and his hanging. Indeed, Christ’s peace was so part of his being that the SS doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death remarked,
“Bonhoeffer was devout . . . brave and composed. I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”We may not be Dietrich Bonhoeffer but that same Spirit the led him to resist, the same Spirit that lead the apostles to become witnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, is the same Spirit that calls us from our own fears, our own locked rooms, out into the world.
For it is Jesus who gives us his peace and his love to live in our lives. As one author put it, in how our lives connect with the Bible:
“In this one book are the two most interesting personalities in the whole world--God and yourself. The Bible is the story of God and man, a love story in which you and I must write our own ending, our unfinished autobiography of the creature and the Creator.” ~ Fulton OurslerMay our ending, our unfinished autobiography, speak of the peace, joy, love & freedom we have found in the risen Christ and not on the fear that tries to rule this world and leave us locked in our rooms regretting yesterday and fearing tomorrow. Amen.