When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. – John 20:19-20
It is hard to believe that our first online worship service was all the way back on March 15. Worship, fellowship, and bible studies have taken place in our living rooms or around the kitchen table. Meetings are held via Zoom. So much has changed in a very short time. 5 weeks is really not that long of a time in the big scheme of things!
But 5 weeks also seems like an eternity! Many of us have been living behind locked doors for 5 weeks, going out only when it is essential – for work, for needed groceries, maybe doctor visits, but even these have been deemed essential vs. non-essential. We see images of overwhelmed and exhausted healthcare workers. We hear discouraging numbers everyday if we turn on the news. I go on walks to clear my head, but I can’t easily stop and talk to my neighbors. I go grocery shopping, but I am warned not to linger and browse, because all of a sudden the world does not feel safe. So I find myself feeling as if I’m hiding behind locked doors.
All of this made me sit up and pay closer attention to Sunday’s gospel reading. The disciples are all gathered together on Easter evening. And where are they? Locked away, hiding, gathering in a home in fear of the world. They were afraid of the Romans who had just crucified their friend – were they marked men as well? Would the religious authorities who handed Jesus over to be killed be just as willing to hand them over?
The disciples had heard the news from Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty, that Jesus had risen, and that Mary herself had seen Jesus. So I wonder what they were talking about – did they believe Mary? Were they wondering what would happen next? Did they share their disbelief and their exclamations that they had never seen anything like this before?
I don’t think I ever really thought as deeply about the disciples’ fear as they stayed away from the events of the world. No, we are not cowering in fear of arrest or crucifixion, huddled in our dark rooms. But aren’t we perhaps feeling a bit like those disciples so long ago as we stay inside with our windows and doors shut, doing our best to stay safe? Aren’t we wondering what will happen next and exclaiming that we have never seen anything like this before?
There is good news. There is always good news when Jesus shows up! Jesus won’t let those locked doors and windows keep him out. He won’t let the fear and uncertainty be the final reality for his followers. Jesus won’t stay away! Locks won’t hold Jesus from those who sit in fear and darkness. And Jesus’ words to his followers were words of comfort, of compassion, of grace. “Peace be with you,” he said.
Those same words of peace, of comfort and compassion and grace are for you and me as well! As isolated as we may feel, as afraid of what is to come as we may be, as overwhelming as this time in our lives seems, Jesus is even stronger. Because even as we are confined to our homes, Jesus is very much with us as well!
We see Jesus’ presence in what we have already experienced! We have learned that the church is not a building, but is a gathering of all of us. We have learned that worship, and grace, and hope can happen anywhere, even around our kitchen table. We have learned that community, relationships, and connectedness are precious gifts, and we are doing everything we can to foster those opportunities to be together, even if it is over the phone, or on a computer screen. We have learned of those whose needs are great in this time, and we have responded with compassion, giving as we are able of food, face masks, and offerings. We have learned that prayer is a gift we have, praying for others, but also knowing others are praying for us. We have learned that love extends to so many places we never thought possible, even when we are not able to be together.
We don’t know when we will be back together. We have no idea when this pandemic will end. It will probably be a good long time. But we have learned as we wait behind our locked doors. We have learned that we may never go back to the way things were before, and maybe that’s okay. Because we have learned more about ourselves, about God, and about the world we live in. We know that we can make a difference in peoples’ lives. We know that compassion and grace are essential for us and those around us. We know that God can and will use us as God’s hands of healing and love. But we also know that God gathers us, and will continue to walk with us. We know that just as Jesus visited the disciples, bringing peace and the gift of the Spirit, Jesus visits us. We know that God is working through each and every one of us to bring hope and healing, grace and love, to the world. We know we are blessed, We know we are loved.
You all continue in my prayers everyday! And I thank you from the depths of my heart for your prayers. We are the church. We are resurrection people who have seen the empty tomb and know that Jesus is loose in the world. And right alongside the tears and longings I feel right now, I am filled with thankfulness and joy.
Peace be with you,