Unlocking Doors – A Sermon on John 20:19-31, Easter 2

Our post today is a guest post from Fr. Mike Marsh, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Uvalde.  His weekly blog is Interrupting the Silence and can be found here.  Please enjoy!  This is one of my favorite sermons from Fr. Mike.–Kelley 

The collect and readings for the Second Sunday of Easter may be found here. The appointed gospel is John 20:19-31.

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. Jesus said to them again, “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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

A week ago we celebrated the resurrection. There comes a time, however, when we must live the resurrection. That 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 people of our lives. Some times we just want to run away, hide, and not deal with the reality of our lives.

Every time, however, we shut the doors of our life, our mind, or our heart we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. That’s what has 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 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’ 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 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 life, our heart, our mind?

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 eastering 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.

Throughout the storm ravaged south strangers are becoming friends, individuality is giving way to unity, and hope lies in the midst of destruction. Christ stands among his people saying, “Peace be with you,” breathing life into what looks lifeless. Every week more than five hundred families are fed at the Uvalde Food Pantry. The boundaries of race, economics, education, and language fall away as guests and volunteers feed each other with food, smiles, conversation, and prayers. In the midst of that feeding Christ enters saying, “Peace be with you. The winds of change are blowing. A few days ago my wife and I visited our son’s grave. We stood in silence crying. Sorrow has closed our doors. Jesus stands in the midst of that sorrow. “Peace be with you.” His breath carries us through the day, 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 reality. They do not necessarily change the circumstances of our life and world. Tornados will still form, the hungry still need to be fed, and loved ones will die. The life and peace of Jesus’ resurrection enable us to meet and live through those circumstances. His gives us his peace, his breath, his life, and then sends us out. We are free to unlock the doors of our lives and step outside into his life.

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