Remember when you got scared as a kid, the safe place was hiding under the covers. The covers were comforting as you hid from whatever scared you. 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 taken 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 rooms of fear, and back 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. Breathing that same Spirit he gave the disciples, 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 from our fear into our world to bring that new life.
A prominent Washington attorney died, a man who had lived a good life: solid, moral and trustworthy, a faithful husband and loving father. He had worked hard; his work ethic and professionalism were beyond reproach. When he died, he went to heaven where St. Peter greeted him at the gates of God's dwelling place.So where are our "wounds," our "nail marks"? What hurt do we feel for others, what burdens have we taken on for the sake of another? What crosses have we borne that we might bring the hope of resurrection into someone's experience of crucifixion?
When the attorney asked if he could enter, Peter pulled out a sheet of paper. It was the man's resume of his many accomplishments. Peter nodded approvingly as he scanned the sheet, clearly impressed by what he saw - but then a frown settled on the saint's face.
"But," Peter said, "I'm puzzled about one thing. Where are your wounds?"
"What do you mean?" the distinguished guest said. "My wounds?"
"Your wounds," Peter explained, "back down on earth. Did you see your city and nation, even your world, struggling through countless crises? Couldn't you recognize the pain in front of you as you moved around your city - people without homes and jobs, without health care, without hope? Couldn't you see the people around your city and country and world in desperate straits? Could you not be wounded, even a little, for the sake of all the wounds around you?" [Adapted from a story told by William Willimon.]
In today's Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows them his hands and his side. We all have scars from our own Good Fridays that remain despite our small resurrections.
Our "nail marks" remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and suffering, all disappointments and anguish, are transformed into healing and peace in the love of God we experience from others and that we extend to them. Jesus says to his brothers & sisters, not to be afraid of the nail marks and the scars and the fractured bones and the crushed spirit and the broken heart. In the light of unwavering hope, with the assurance of God's unlimited grace, even the simplest act of kindness and understanding is the realization of Easter in our midst.
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 & share resurrection with all the wounded in our world today. Amen.