UNLOCKING DOORS (FROM BELIEF TO TRUST)
This sermon has been so affected by a sermon by Pastor Michael K. Marsh of Texas that I feel the need to credit him with most of what will be shared this morning.
A week ago, we celebrated the resurrection by baptizing Peter Lahr and announcing his adoption as a child of God and his beginning of eternal life. Traditionally this Sunday has been called low Sunday. The resurrection has happened. The attendance at worship drops. So, every year we tell the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples behind closed doors and giving them the spirit of resurrection by laying hands on them. The next scene is Thomas coming later and being told Jesus has risen from the dead and Thomas expressing his doubt and need to encounter the risen Lord and literally touch the nail holes in his wrists and put his hand in Jesus’ side where the spear pierced his body after his death, to believe he was risen from the dead.
But the disciples were still behind closed doors. The time had come to live the resurrection in the world and the disciples were hiding in the Upper Room. There comes a time for all when we need to move beyond celebrating resurrection and actually living it. This is not always easy. There are days when we prefer to just stay in bed, pull the covers over our head, and close out the world. Some days it seems easier and safer to lock the doors of our house and avoid the circumstances and the people outside our home. Sometimes we just want to run away, hide, and not deal with the total reality of our lives.
Every time, however, we shut the doors of our lives, our minds, or our hearts, we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. That’s what happened to the disciples in today’s gospel. It is Easter evening, the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, the day they saw the empty tomb, the day Mary Magdalene announced; “I have seen the Lord.” The disciples are gathered in the house, the doors are locked with fear. A week later, even after seeing the risen Jesus and being blessed by him they are in the same place. It is the same house, the same walls, the same closed doors, the same locks. Nothing much has changed.
Jesus’s tomb is open and empty but the disciples’ house is closed, and the doors locked tight. The house has become their tomb. 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. Their doors of faith have been closed. They have shut their eyes to the reality that life is now different. They have shut their eyes to the reality that life is not different. They have locked out Mary Magdalene’s words of faith, hope, and love. They left the empty tomb of Jesus and entered their own tombs of fear, doubt, and blindness. The locked doors have become the great stone sealing their tomb. They have locked themselves in. The doors of our tombs are always locked from the inside. All this, and it has been only one week.
I wonder, one week after Easter, is our life different? Where are we living? In the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors. How is our life different after Easter? And if it isn’t, what are the locked doors of our lives, our hearts, our minds?
When St. 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. The locked places of our lives are always more about what is going on inside of us than around us.
What are the closed places of your life? What keeps you in the tomb? Maybe, like the disciples, it is fear. Maybe it is questions. disbelief, or the conditions we place on our faith. Perhaps it is sorrow and loss. Maybe the wounds are so deep it does not seem worth the risk to step outside. For others it may be anger and resentment. Some seem unable or unwilling to open up to new ideas, possibilities, and change.
Jesus is always entering the locked places of our lives. He comes “Easter”ing in us. Unexpected, uninvited, and sometimes even unwanted he steps into our closed lives, closed hearts, closed minds. Standing among us he offers peace and breathes new life into us. He doesn’t open the door for us but he gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being. This is happening all the time.
As the Western World deals with the refugee crisis out of Ukraine, nations and families are welcoming strangers into their lives for support, healing, and a new beginning. More than 5 million Ukrainian people have left the country, and most of them are old people, women, and children. Some of their pain and suffering, Christ through people is saying, “Peace be with you.” A pastor and his wife report; a few days ago, my wife and I visited our son’s grave. We stood in silence crying. Sorrow had closed their doors, and Jesus came in the midst of that sorrow, saying, “Peace be with you.” His breath gave us new life, and he is carrying us through life, one day at a time.
Regardless of the circumstances Jesus shows up bringing peace, offering peace, embodying peace. Regardless of the circumstances Jesus shows up bringing life, offering life, embodying life. Life and peace are resurrection realities. They do not necessarily change the circumstances of our life and world. Wars will still happen, and the hungry will still need to be fed and loved ones will die. The life and peace of Jesus’ resurrection enable us to meet and live through these circumstances. He gives us his peace, his breath, his life, and then sends us out. We are free to unlock the doors of our lives, change from belief to trust, and step outside into Jesus’ new reality. Amen.