Reflections from Sunday, April 23/17
Sunday, April 23, 2017
I think it would be fair to say that we live in an information age. Now, we could have long, likely complex, discussions about what exactly does and does not constitute news, fake and otherwise, but not wanting to jump down that rabbit hole this morning, let’s just say that both as a Christian and a citizen of the world, staying abreast of what is happening in both our immediate world and in the larger global community, well, it is important. Exactly how we choose to do that will vary a bit, that is whether we prefer electronic means or the more traditional, the end is the same. It is good to know what is happening.
However we choose to stay informed, several things always seem very obvioius when I listen to the news. The first is that bad news is more popular than good, with upset, hurt, pain and disaster usually always grabbing the headlines, and the second is that peace is something, though earnestly and desperately in some cases sought after, peace seems difficult to find. Why is that?
Peace on a personal level can be freedom from disturbance; it is quiet, tranquility, calm, serenity, and contentment. On an international level, peace is freedom from war, violence, civil disorder, and disputes between individuals or groups. So while the wish for peace seems very foundational to who we are as human beings, (don’t we each extend our wish of peace to one another on Sunday mornings), it seems equally beyond our reach to obtain so often.
Our Gospel reading this morning picks up where we left off last week on the evening of that first Easter Sunday. You will recall that Mary having seen the Lord runs back to the other disciples to give them the news of her encounter with Jesus. Later that same day, Jesus appears to the disciples for the first time, passing through the locked doors, he speaks to them, commissioning them, enabling them with his Holy Spirit, and then he returns again one week later to the same place.
Have you ever wondered just what happened during that week? Well we know that Thomas was absent for Jesus’ first visit and present for the second, but was there anything else going on? During Jesus’ visits he will speak “peace” to them three times, twice the first time, once the second, for peace is what the disciples lacked and in all fairness, that is no wonder.
I mean really, it was one thing to hear from Mary that the Lord had risen, but to see it for themselves? Despite all the best efforts of the powers that be, both religious and secular, to remove him from the scene, Jesus had done as he had said; he had returned to them.
But really, it was all a bit hard to take in. In Jesus appearing to them, it was clear, that he had risen. He showed them his hands, his side. There could be no mistake about it. He had broken the bonds of death and sin, swallowing up death, destroying its stranglehold on humanity! But in this account, a week would pass and these disciples at least would remain locked away.
Now, after three days in the tomb, Jesus left the tomb behind but in a certain way, the disciples remained stuck, still in their tomb, their tomb behind the locked doors of the house, after eight days, for they were paralyzed by fear and because of this fear in their hearts peace could find no place in them. They lingered in their tomb, a tomb of their own making.
How easy it is to linger in tombs of all different kinds, tombs of our own making, and tombs into which we have been thrust by others. We all have them, these tombs in our lives, those places that while not exactly pleasant, they are familiar. We have grown accustomed to the feel of the place, and while limiting, it feels oddly comfortable. We would like to venture beyond them, but somehow that feels too risky, too much of an unknown. No, better to stay where we are! Who know what could happen if we stretch beyond the familiar? Into all of this Jesus bursts, through the locked doors the disciples were certain they had checked and double checked, and there he is, large as life … life, bursting forth from the icy grip of the grave, life!
In Christ, life comes to meet us in our tombs and while our initial squeal is one of delight, with our second breath, we realize that Jesus is asking us, or perhaps better to say, challenging us, to leave our tombs behind, and embrace some of his promise of a life of abundance.
The disciples do eventually unlock the doors and sensing God’s Spirit prompting them, they begin to move out into the world. We hear Peter in the reading from Acts eloquently pronouncing the truth of good news in the Messiah and of his resurrection to the crowds in Jerusalem! Make no mistake of it, the subsequent lives of the disciples were not free of conflict, not even from conflict among themselves. For the peace that Jesus gives is not freedom from discord, verbal or physical. It is rather an inner calm in the midst of strife.
Jesus did not call them, encourage them, out of their tomb because there would be no bumps along the road of their lives. That’s why elsewhere Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace (Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51), peace understood in the more conventional way.
But in Christ we are promised the kind of peace that surpasses understanding, which is a kind of Peace that on some levels just doesn’t make sense. The disciples stood on the starting line of something so new and so different. They needed the assurance of Jesus’ offer of peace to them repeated that day; an offer of peace that gave them the grace to edge their way out of the tomb in which they found themselves, believing that something new and something wonderful was possible.
In a few minutes we will be heading into a Town Hall meeting to talk about our life here together at Trinity. As we know, we have had some challenges and need to be looking
and planning ahead. Like the disciples we are on the edge of something different, and like them, we take Christ’s promise of peace to us, firmly in hand, allowing it to do a good work in us, that peace that might be quite beyond our understanding more times than not. It is a peace upon which we can base our life and because of which we can dare to leave the old behind, and grapping hold of all that is ahead venture out into all that is next for us.
My peace I give unto you
It’s a peace that the world cannot give
It’s a peace that the world cannot understand
Peace to know, peace to live
My peace I give unto you