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“All Creatures of Our God and King”
“Breathe on Me, Breath of God”
“Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”
Holy and living Jesus,
even in our doubts you are with us.
As we sit huddled and afraid as the disciples did,
you breath on us the Spirit of Peace and Gentleness like a breeze.
Give us faith to walk your path beyond your resurrection,
to continue your ministry of love and care for the vulnerable and lost,
and to believe not just with our minds and hearts, but with our lives.
We pray in you, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,
who lives and reigns with God our Parent, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and forever. Amen.
The disciples were locked in a room, sequestered, because of fear of the religious authorities. This is still Easter Day, so the events of the crucifixion were still fresh in their minds. They assumed that, having executed the leader of this upstart movement, the religious authorities of the temple and the Roman soldiers would start to find and arrest the rest of his followers, to make sure that this Jesus movement—and all its dangerous ideas about opening up religious purity to include everyone and putting authority into the hands of God and not humans—was well and truly stamped out.
The disciples were shut in their homes, afraid. The obvious parallel is obvious enough that I don’t think I need to dwell on it.
But they were locked behind a door because they thought, they hoped that they could be safe. They their enemies, the people searching for them would not get in.
We shut and lock all sorts of doors for this reason. We fear making ourselves vulnerable, whether emotionally, physically, financially.
Just as the smallest example, I love singing. But when I was a young boy, I got told to stop singing a lot, mostly by other boys. It wasn’t what boys did, at least not the “cool” ones. Singing was a girls’ thing.
And so, for a good long while, I didn’t sing. At least, not loud enough for anyone to hear me. Because I was afraid of looking like a fool. I’ve worked hard on being a better singer now, but I have a lot of regret that I was so afraid of looking ridiculous as a child. Because not singing didn’t stop any bullying. Not “looking gay” and pretending I was straight never stopped a single homophobic insult.
So as much as we might protect ourselves, the “enemy” finds its way in anyway.
And I think with sadness about how many people don’t sing because they’re afraid of how their voice sounds and what others will think of them, especially in church. As I’ve been sticking with “old favourite” public domain hymns for the moment, I’ve realized that they’re harder to sing, they have a bigger range, but people used to be able to sing them because we, as a culture, used to sing more, not caring about how we sounded. Then we got the idea that only people with “good voices” should sing.
God does not say to us, “Make a pretty noise, all the earth.” She says, “Make a joyful noise.”
For all our fear of vulnerability, it still happens. We will never be able to fully protect ourselves.
But with the disciples, it is not the enemy who bursts through the locked door. Instead, it is Jesus. Nothing keeps him away. I mean, the whole point of Easter is that God so loved the world . . . not even death could keep God’s love from us. Not our death, nor his.
Even Thomas’s doubt was not enough to keep Jesus away. Jesus didn’t say, “You doubted, therefore you are unworthy.”
Jesus doesn’t say to Peter, “You denied me, therefore you are unworthy.”
He doesn’t say to the disciples, “You ran away, therefore you are unworthy.”
He doesn’t try the locked door, and when it doesn’t open, doesn’t say, “Well, I guess they don’t want me.”
He comes into the room anyway and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
If God’s love is the most powerful thing in the universe, powerful enough to come back from the dead, then how could one person’s doubt or any of our imperfections stop it? How could a locked door stop it?
Open up your doors. Don’t be afraid to sing regardless of how silly you think you might be. Don’t be afraid to love others, even if they don’t love you back. Don’t be afraid to help others because you might be taken advantage of.
Open the door, because in the end it’s God’s love on the other side. And even if we don’t want it, it’s going to burst into the room anyway. Nothing, not any power in heaven or on earth can keep God’s love for us. Not even ourselves. And thank God for that. Hallelujah.