April 19, 2020 During the Pandemic Isolation in Naples, FL
Acts of the Apostles 2, 42-47 + Psalm 118 + 1 Peter 1, 3-9 + John 20, 19-31
The locked doors of that room are probably as important as the story John tells about Thomas and his apostolic friends. Fear often does that to people, so does anger. They lock themselves up. They hide. They build walls. What is revealed here by the living Word of God is that locked doors, walls, minds and hearts closed up are nothing to Christ Jesus. He comes in anyway, and if we read this carefully, he comes more than once until he has everyone’s attention, trust, and faith. There comes a point when hearing this Gospel at which we can no longer talk about “them”, or those apostles, because we’ve all been there maybe more than once. Perhaps, some in this assembly are still there: locked up, closed up, sealed up, and maybe even, fed up. We shut people out because they hurt us, talk about us, and somehow offend us. We shut God out because something happens we don’t like or we don’t get what we want. We close our ears and shut our eyes so that we do not hear or see God asking something of us that is too much, and not in our plan.
That is what was happening in that upper room. God had asked something of them, and they were afraid, not of the Jews, and not even were they afraid of Jesus, but they were afraid that God was asking them to become believers, to trust that even though they did not understand, they could believe and could live as they had been taught to live without any fear of death. God was asking them to abandon their old ideas about power and privilege that came with their mistaken expectations of a Messiah. What Thomas and his friends discovered in that room they had turned into a prison is that faith is an either-or. It is either God or – the rest does not matter. They had to choose, and the choice was frightening. Choose anything other than God or you lose out; both them and their choices are lost. Jesus broke into their presence inviting them to live life as he did, to the fullest.
There is something radical, political, social, and personal going on here. Being a Christian is not some assigned label that we are stuck with forever. For too many people, that claim is an excuse for mediocrity. It takes a whole life to claim that name. It means making a choice day in and day out, a choice to be real, an authentic person who has a relationship with God. That relationship may very well mean leaving the safety of a calculated way of life for a reckless, wholehearted life of faith in Christ which very well may mean standing up and speaking up when something political, social, or personal is wrong.
These people pray, and they know that the function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. They have an on-going conversation with God. They talk about their sorrows, their joys, doubts and pains, and inevitably they arrive at gratitude. They do not just read the bible. They live it, and sooner or later they come to understand that empty tomb, and with that understanding, all fear is gone, anger is silenced, and they become open to grace, open to life, open to others for that’s the way it is in the Kingdom of God.