April 12, 2015
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
When Jesus shows up in the room, the first thing he says is, “Peace be with you.” I want us to hear that, not just in the context of the disciples, locked in the room in fear, but in our own contexts. What are we afraid of?
One thing I think we often fear is, is there enough? Is there enough water in California for ranchers, farmers and the cities? And what does that mean for us around the Great Lakes?
Are there enough jobs here in Michigan to keep the kids here? Do we have enough money to retire? Will our insurance cover whatever the doc is about to say?
How many of us are worried about our safety and security?
A comedian a few years ago explained perfectly what it means to live in a post-9/11 world. He was teaching his daughter her colors using a bag of Skittles. He pulled out an orange one and asked, “Okay, sweetie, what’s this one?” She replied, “Elevated.”
They have gotten rid of the security alert color scheme that no one quite knew what to do with anyway, but how many of us still live our lives on high alert?
Unmanned drones mean we are not risking American lives in this “War on Terror,” but we reinforce our image so many places around the world as a faceless enemy, which is a powerful recruitment tool for those who wish us harm. Our money is secure in these long-time, well established financial institutions, until they start betting against their own products in the market and nearly collapse the system. We militarize the police to deal with the war on terror, but then learn the details of how racist the Fergusson police department really has been and white America starts to understand that the complaints about police harassment of blacks are not isolated incedents.
Even the means and methods of our safety and security scare us.
We fear death. The hospice movement has helped us come a long way towards offering dignity and pain management at the end of life, but for many of us death is still the enemy. We fear the pain of dying. We fear the struggle of dying.
Watch one 30 minute television show and count how many of the ads are designed to play off of our fear of aging. Along with aging, perhaps we fear forgetting and being forgotten.
How many of us worry about our salvation? Maybe we are still in the camp of “I believe, help my unbelief.” And there are plenty of churches willing to tell us how wrong we are and who say folks like us cannot get into heaven unless we start to believe and act and worship like they do.
Or maybe we still need some sign, some proof. “Well, Jesus is fine, but he has yet to heal my…..” We need something tangible to hold on to.
These fears, and perhaps others as well, are like unto being locked away in a room. And that is our story this morning.
Jesus shows up EVEN in the midst of the locked up, fearful disciples. For fear of the religious authorities locking them up, they have locked themselves up. Isn’t that what fear does? For fear of losing their lives because of their faith, they have locked themselves away from the life of faith. Does this sound familiar? For fear of the dangers of life, they refuse to live. Does this sound familiar?
Peace be with you. That’s what he says. And he shows them his hands and his feet, and they rejoice that they have seen the Lord.
Peace be with you. He says it again. Then he sends them forth, meaning they have to leave the safe confines of the locked room. As the Father sent him, so now he sends them, breathing on them the Holy Spirit, giving them authority to forgive on behalf of the kingdom.
But somebody always misses the meeting or shows up late, and here comes Thomas. Well, until I see it and touch for myself, I just cannot accept what you are saying. And Jesus shows up again.
Peace be with you. Jesus says it a third time.
Here Thomas, you would not believe without touching, here, touch. “My Lord and my God.” Thomas says it without touching. Jesus’ presence is enough.
Three times Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” Three times he opens with these lines. Good News always begins with, “Peace be with you.” (Sometimes it is “Do not be afraid,” or “Do not be alarmed.” Same thing.)
The community that hears Good News and lives it out is unafraid. Unafraid of lack, so they open their hands in sharing and there is enough. This is the community we read of in Acts this morning. All shared so none had need. Unafraid for their safety and security, so they act towards one another as neighbors, not competitors, not enemies.
Those crazy early Christians were sometimes described as, “You can tell how deranged they are, for they are unafraid of death.” Justin Martyr, in his letter to the Emperor of Rome, writes, “You can kill us, you cannot harm us.”
Such a community is unafraid for their salvation because they believe the promises of God and take it personally when Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”
It says that in the community where the church was practicing this kind of fearless faith, a community of neighbors sharing, the Apostles testified with great power and great grace was upon them all.
Are we locked up in fear?
Peace be with you.
Are we afraid of life, afraid of death, afraid of change, afraid of there not being enough?
Peace be with you.
Are we still not sure?
Peace be with you.
For every fear, a peace.
For every wound, a healing.
For every storm, a calming.
For every burden, a lifting.
For every doubt, a relief.
For every death, a resurrection.
And the world of pain and toil and suffering becomes a community of neighbors, taking care of one another. Like unto the kingdom of heaven.
Thanks be to God.