Grace and Peace to you from the Risen Christ. Amen.
The scene in the Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Easter stands in stark contrast to the lilies, and baskets, and bonnets we normally associate with this season. In the place of victorious trumpets, and bright colors, and ham, we are met with darkness, secrecy and fear. It was the evening on the night of our Lord’s resurrection, the most splendid and triumphant day in all of history. But the disciples didn’t know that yet. All they had to go on was the crazy story of a hysterical woman. And so even though everything had changed…the disciples were in hiding.
Our scripture says that they were huddled together in a locked room, in fear. I can just picture their terse, hushed words as they wondered what they were going to do. Their anxiety high, their doors locked, and their lights low. All of them must have been plagued with doubts. “What was this all for? Am I going to be next on that cross?”
The scripture tells us that Thomas was not there with the disciples that night. I can only imagine where he might have been. He seems like perhaps one of the more practically minded of the group, so I imagine something happening along the lines of Thomas rolling his eyes, and saying like, “This is the plan? To hide in this room? Well, someone has to go find some bread for us to eat. We can’t stay in here forever” as he marched out despite the other disciples murmured protests. And then they locked the door behind him.
Whatever the reason, Thomas wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t there and Jesus came. Jesus came through the locked doors,into their fear and their darkness and said, “Peace be with you.”
So when Thomas comes back and the other disciples are talking over each other,interrupting, yelling, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas is skeptical, wanting to see for himself, as they had. Poor Thomas. Out of all of the stupid things that all of the disciples had done, Thomas is the one who gets stuck with the scornful nickname. Yet, he was in the same place that the others had been before. Mary Magdalene had burst in and told them the Good News…but they were in such a place of fear, that they weren’t ready to receive it. And soThomas, hearing the news from the disciples, felt the same way. He needed to see Jesus, too.
A lot of you don’t know my story yet, but a couple of you lived through it with me. I had only just celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary with the love of my life, Adam. We traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa to visit our daughter and our greatest treasure, Alice, and to work on pushing forward with our seemingly never-ending adoption. We spent a few weeks together there, as a family, and then Adam and I came home to California. Adam started to complain about aches and pains later that week. I knew it was bad when we had to leave Disneyland early and come home. As it turned out, Adam had malaria and was hospitalized for 3 weeks. He was life-flighted to San Diego and put on a ventilator. I was 22-years-old and looking at becoming a widow, watching him circle the drain and wondering over and over and over, “What am I going to do?”
The Balboa Navy Hospital in San Diego put me up in a home on the hospital campus where I could stay for the week, 5 minutes from my door to his bed in the ICU. I was there in the ICU, for about 20 hours a day, leaving after midnight to shower and get some rest, and coming back before rounds at 5 am. The ICU nurses there had my cell phone number and swore to me that they would call me if there were any changes during the time I was gone. I taped my number on his chart, on his clipboard, next to his bed. I made them enter into their personal cell phones in front of me. And yet, when I would wake up, breathless in the night from an awful nightmare where I had lost him, I would send the ICU nurse a text at 3:00 am saying, “Is he ok? I had the most awful dream….” And she would text back something encouraging, “No changes! I promise to let you know.”
But that was never enough. Before I had even received the text back I was flying out the door, pushing the button on the elevator 7 times, impatiently urging it to come faster, faster, and rushing into his room.
The nurse said it was ok. She said he was fine. But I had to see him. I had to hold his hand. Because…I love him.
And so when I hear this story of Mary and of the disciples and of Thomas…I don’t hear a story of doubt. I hear a story of love. And maybe, sometimes, they are the same thing, doubt and love. Mary, who didn’t even care that there were angels in the empty tomb. The disciples who refused to believe “He is risen!” from Mary. Thomas who said, “I have to see him, myself. I have to see him and I have to touch him.” This doubt, this fear, is born out of the fact that it is TERRIFYING to hope for what we want most dearly. It is TERRIFYING to love.
And Jesus knows that. And Jesus loves us. Which is why he enters into the spaces where we are most terrified, where we are hiding, where we are too afraid to hope and he shows himself to us. Jesus shows himself to us and he greets us saying, “Peace be with you.”
Maybe there is some place right now in your life where you are too afraid to come out of the darkness. Maybe there are questions you have, doubts you have, that you are too afraid to voice, even to yourself. My prayer for you is that you listen to Jesus’s offering of his presence and his peace,and you take the step out of the darkness and into the light, knowing that the God who loves you to the grave and back is with you, every step of the way. Jesus knows about the risks of love, he lived it! He lived it all the way to the cross.
So may you find the space to be honest with yourself about the places where you are hiding in fear. May you find Christ’s peace, and the boldness that comes with it. And may you give up and give in to the wild that hope that you feel bubbling up in your heart.
Christ is Risen. Amen.