Pentecost June 4, 2017
Acts 2, 1-11 + Psalm 104 + 1 Corinthians 12, 3-7, 12-13 + John 20, 19-23
Aboard the MS Maasdam and at St Peter and St William Parishes in Naples, FL
For years, I have listened to this Gospel story and put myself in that room and in that company. Now remember, these are the people who did nothing and said nothing as Jesus was hauled off, mocked, abused, tortured, and killed. They knew he was innocent. They did nothing. In fact, their leader even denied knowing Jesus. Putting yourself in that room requires some real self-knowledge. I have tried, and I have come to feel that the doors were not necessarily locked for “fear of the Jews” which is John’s code language for the opponents of Jesus. Besides, those doors were not the only thing barricaded. If I had been through what they had been through, my heart would have been barricaded as well, because my heart was broken with disappointment and shame over what I had done and failed to do.
Hope was locked out as well, because hope was broken. We’ve all been there, disappointed and protecting ourselves from more disappointment by expecting the worst rather than allowing any more disappointment and pain. But the fact is, they had already heard that the tomb was empty. Allowing hope over what it could mean was out of the question. Yet just possibly he was risen, alive, and there were reports to this effect. So, in shame possibly more than in fear, they locked the doors. When you have betrayed a friend, failed to come to their aid, and even denied knowing them, the last person you want to see is that friend. It’s not hard to imagine why that door was locked.
Then the tomb breaker is in their midst. So much for locks and barricades! Hope will not be stifled. Peace is the greeting. But, this gift of peace that he brings is far more than we imagine with our English language definition of that word. The greeting and the gift he announces is not about the absence of war or conflict. It is the opposite of chaos. It is the right ordering of all things and all relationships. The people in that room were in chaos. He has come to take them out of chaos, which is a kind of re-creation. He is going to make something of them, and for that matter he is still doing so with us.
As John tells the story, Jesus comes with his wounds, because a risen Lord with no wounds would not have much to say to the wounded people in that room or anywhere else. It has always struck me that people who have suffered the most are comforted and attracted to images of Christ that are anguished and bloody. I have also observed that some who have suffered little in life prefer to surround themselves with images of Christ that are sentimental and hardly human.
There is a story told about a man who died and arrived at the gates of heaven. The guardian at the gate said: “Show me your wounds.” To which the man answered, “I don’t have any.” The guardian then said: “Did you ever think that anything or anyone was worth fighting for?” And with that, there was silence. The one who stood in the midst of that chaos knew that his sisters and brothers were worth fighting for. Our wounds tell us who we are like the tattoos on the hands and arms of Jewish people. The bumps, scrapes, and scars of lives well lived tell the story. For some life seems to drain out of them through their hurts. They become bitter and lifeless. They have no hope and no future. They never really live again. For others, new life comes from these broken places, and this is resurrection; and it is a call to go, be broken and suffer a bit for the sake of another. Peace be with you.