peace, breath, & and fear.
god be with you
Actually, let's try that again. It's the Easter season so let’s start off the way we should.
Now, for anyone who is new to the whole church thing, there’s this really churchy thing we do during Easter where someone says ‘Christ is risen’ and everyone responds with ‘He is risen indeed.’ It's a way to help us embody the fact that easter and resurrection aren't something we just simply hear about, they’re something we respond to. This call and response, as any good ritual does, is meant to help us be open and present to some of the truths easter and resurrection offer us.
So let's try it out:
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
So the hope and prayer is that starting off this way each week will draw us deeper into the season and help us explore, celebrate, struggle with, and talk about resurrection and what it means for being human and alive in this world. And that's really the plan for the next few weeks or so. We’ll look at a resurrection story in the Bible and ask one of the most important theological questions we can:
‘So what? Who cares? Why is this a story we still need to hear today? What does this say to us about being human and alive in this world?'
as we head into this,
we will talk about:
a story in the bible
something we all know
peace and breath
and then end with a blessing.
Are you with me?
So, there is a story in the Bible …
The story picks up where we left off last week on Easter Sunday:
Mary Mags, one of the followers of Jesus, just encountered the Risen Christ. She’s experienced resurrection and has run off to tell the other disciples that Jesus is alive and that everything he talked about has come true.
And the disciples we’re told,
and here’s where our story begins,
having heard the news from Mary,
are hiding out behind locked doors, stowed away in some attic,
when suddenly and out of nowhere,
Jesus appears in the middle of the group.
Before the disciples can freak out, Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’ and then he breathes on them, saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Now go and continue my work.’ And with that, he vanishes as mysteriously as he appeared.
Fast forward an entire week and the disciples are still locked up in the attic, but this time Thomas is with them. They are all 'Dude, you wouldn’t believe what happened!’ and Thomas is all “What?! No way! Unless I see and touch him, I won't believe it!”
And then, just like before, Jesus appears out of nowhere in the middle of the room, does the peace and breathing thing again, lets Thomas see and touch him, and then, just like before, vanishes.
And thats it.
Thats how the story and John's Gospel end.
It’s a crazy good story.
We could talk about it for weeks.
There is SO much good stuff in here.
There’s stuff about how the Risen Christ has an actual physical body which raises a really beautiful and important question:
How can we redeem our bodies?
How can we see our bodies not as a source of torment and shame, but as good, beautiful, and holy?
There’s stuff about how the other disciples didn’t believe Mary’s story which makes us wonder:
what marginalized voices do we need to turn up and pay attention to?
There’s stuff about why Thomas wasn’t there which makes us ask:
where do we go and what we do when we experience rejection and disappointment and loss?
All good things for us to rumble with.
All great things that make that story our story.
And none of which we’ll talk about today.
Today we’ll go down a different road today,
one which also makes this story our story,
one that takes us into a place I think a lot of us struggle to navigate,
and one that can help us understand how resurrection can shape our lives today.
And to see that, let’s ask a question about this story:
why is the door locked?
Now I know we’re told they are hiding from the Jewish authorities because they feel that what happened to Jesus could very well happen to them.
But lets get a bit more technical than that.
Why is the door locked?
Well, because someone locked it.
Well, who locked it?
Ah! Now who are the disciples?
They are a group of people who were searching for Something Bigger than Themselves, looking for Something that hums with reverence and truth, and who found that Something in Jesus;
they are people who left everything - their homes, families, jobs, friends, dreams - behind to follow jesus;
and they are the very people who saw everything they put their lives into, come crashing down in the most devestating way on Good Friday.
They are a group of people who when Jesus asked them to stay awake, fell asleep. Not once, but twice;
people who after seeing Jesus arrested, ran away;
people who, when having a chance to own their beliefs and convictions, denied it all;
people who thought the thing that happened to Jesus could also happen to them;
people who, when a close friend confided in them about something miraculous, didn’t believe her;
and they are people who, even after seeing Jesus alive again, and even after being called to leave the room, stayed locked up because of what all that could mean for their lives and their world.
So with all that in mind … why is the door locked?
It’s locked because of one of the most powerful and complex emotions that we can ever experience:
Fear. The door is locked out of fear.
That’s something we all know, isn’t it?
I know it too.
Let’s own that: we all know fear.
And lets also own that’s ok. Fear is a normal and good human emotion.
Fear is that emotion that, whenever risk enters into our lives, tells us one thing: “Stop! Go back!”
Fear is that emotion that reigns us in and slows us down whenever we enter into something new and unfamiliar.
Fear is that emotion responsible for keeping us alive, safe, and comfortable.
And while fear is an important emotion and we need to learn to recognize it’s voice, here’s the thing about fear:
we can never let drive.
We can't let it drive because as Liz Gilbert puts it: "terrified people make terrible decisions."
Thats the thing about fear.
As great and as helpful as it can be,
we know where it leads,
we know the kind of life and world it takes us into:
a life and world of anxiety and worry,
a life and world of our proverbial doors - our hearts, our minds, our communities, our dispositions - are all closed and locked,
a life and world where we spend just as much energy keeping things out as we spend keeping things in,
a life and world where we’re stuck hiding in some attic as life passes us by.
Anyone know what Im talking about?
Anyone been stuck in that attic before?
Im sure we’ve all been there.
Its certainly where the disciples are in this story.
It’s an intersection we all struggle to navigate because the truth is, we dont want that life and world do we?
As safe as it may feel at the moment, we know deep down that a life and world of fear is not the life and world that we - or God - wants us to have.
And so we spend our time caught in the push and pull of fear - not wanting to stop and give in but also unsure if we can or should to forward.
Anyone with me on that?
Anyone know what I'm talking about?
We all do. Weve all been there.
So our question becomes:
what do we do with our fear?
How do we make it through that push and pull?
What do we do with the anxiety we have over our kids?
What do we do with our worry that we cant overcome our addictions and vices?
What do we do with the risk of embracing new opportunities and ideas?
What do we do with our fear of where the church is going and what that means for us?
What do we do in those moments when something beautiful, good, and amazing could be just around the corner, but everything inside us yells ‘Stop! Go back!’?
Do we listen to our fear and remain in holed up in our attics?
Do we just surrender to it all?
Or is there another way?
I think we can find another way here in this story.
So lets go back to the story …
In the midst of the disciples' fear,
in the midst of everything yelling to keep that door locked and stay put,
in the midst of bunkering down and hiding out,
who shows up?
Jesus shows up.
And what does Jesus do?
He says ‘peace be with you’ and he breathes on them.
It sounds a bit strange but underneath it something really important is going on here,
something that those of us caught up in the push and pull of fear need to hear:
The peace Jesus is offering isn’t just any peace, it’s shalom - the very peace of God;
its that peace that quieted the chaos at the beginning, making room for creation,
that peace that calmed the storm, letting the disciples in that boat know they’d be ok,
it’s a peace that centres and reassures,
a peace that,
in the midst of all our fears and worries,
lets us know that we are not alone, but God is with us.
The breath Jesus is offering isn’t just any breath, it’s the very breath of God;
it’s that Animating Force that spun the universe into motion,
that Energy moves creation forward,
that Wind that liberates and sets free,
that Presence that empowers and strengthens,
that Spirit that,
in the midst of all our fears and worries,
gives us the courage to persevere, to come alive, and to step out.
Jesus show up in the midst of fear and offers peace and breath.
So what’s going on here?
What’s Jesus doing?
In response to their fears, he’s calling them to a life of courage.
Cause here’s the thing, here’s what Jesus seems to know and understand:
our attics and upper rooms,
the things we lock ourselves in due to fear,
there's a word our tradition would use to describe them:
They are just another form of death;
they stop us from experiencing the kind of life and world God wants us to have.
And the truth and wisdom of resurrection is,
part of what we celebrate and hold on to is,
you dont need to live like that.
Fear doesn't need to drive your life.
You dont need to have that life and world.
And Jesus offers us what we need to navigate the push and pull of fear and courageously rise up and live as we were always meant to live:
Peace to have the noise die down and hear the news that you’re not alone and you don't have to live like that.
Spirit to to breathe in, to come alive in a brand new way, to rise above your fears, unlock the door and step into new life.
So knowing that this is what resurrection and easter offer us, let’s end with this:
what scares you?
what is fear saying to you?
what is it that makes you lock the door and hide?
Whatever it is, let is come to mind …
Feel that push and pull ...
But before you give in,
before you stop and go back to your attics,
let’s practice the courage resurrection offers us and leave here with this blessing.
may peace be with you.
may you breathe in that Spirit.
may you stand up, unlock your door, and step into new life.