2 Easter Sunday
8 April 2018 on Board the MS Amsterdam
Acts of the Apostles 4, 32-35 + Psalm 118 + 1 John 5, 1-6 + John 20, 19-31
This story is about fear as much as it is about faith. It explores the two experiences and reveals how fear is to be overcome. In my opinion, fear is the first human experience. Did anyone ever hear of a new born baby giggling or laughing? The first and deepest fear in all humanity is the fear of being alone, of being abandoned. That fear is what causes us so often to be terrified of death which is why we need to tell this story at the beginning of the Easter Season.
We look at the behavior of these apostles, and we see what fear can do to us. Afraid, they lock themselves up. Afraid of crowds who followed Jesus who might come and mock and ridicule them? Afraid that the news they heard from the women is true and Jesus is back, and that he might come and ask why they abandoned him? Afraid of the “leaders of the people” who might track them down and put them to death as well? They have plenty to fear, and in their behavior, we see the consequences of fear. They are cut off, isolated, hiding, denying, and helpless.
They tried to keep everyone out with their locked doors. Jesus got in, and he says: “Peace be with you.” That word, “SHALOHM” describes a kind of “wholeness”. When it is used as a verb, it means mending as someone might mend a net or repair a rip or torn clothing. It has to do with putting back together whatever is broken. When used as a greeting by Jesus, it announces that the relationship he had with the apostles was not broken by death.
In his first Epistle, John writes, “Perfect Love casts out all fear.” It is perfect love that stands in their midst to declare an end to fear, so show that God’s love is more powerful than death, and that faith in the risen Christ who promised to never leave us provides the ultimate victory over fear. There is no fear in love. We who have been loved know that. When not associated with abandonment, fear often has to do with punishment, and so in quieting that fear, Jesus speaks of and commissions forgiveness. Now there is nothing left to fear: we’re not abandoned and we have been forgiven.
All of this is the great Mercy we celebrate today. The mercy of a God who lifts fear from our hearts and would replace it with love. The mercy of a God who will seek and find us no matter where we hide and no matter how many doors are locked. Thomas, that wise and faithful apostle reminds us of something very important. With no idea where he was or why he was out and not among the others, we see that faith and the risen Lord are found in relationship with the apostles: in the church. Jesus waits for him to come back and then Jesus returns for him. Thomas does not find Jesus out on his own. In that faithful community about to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and reborn into a church, the only response to this great mercy is Joy and gratitude which draw us together this week aboard this ship where laughter can lift us from sorrow and fear, and where the beauty of the sea and all creation can stir our hopes for the Paradise for which we were created.