Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Second Week of Easter 04/03/2016

Last week on Easter Sunday, we read the resurrection story from Luke’s Gospel, and this morning, we’ve moved to the evening hours of Easter in John’s account.  Let’s go back to John’s story of the resurrection for a minute to put things into context. According to John, early in the day, Mary Magdalene has ventured alone to the tomb and found the stone rolled away. She runs to find Peter and the Beloved Disciple to tell them that the Lord has been taken out of the tomb, and she didn’t know where.  The three of them race back, and the men confirm Jesus is gone.

Then the men go home – unable to explain the empty tomb. Did the authorities move him? Has someone robbed the grave?  They know nothing beyond the fact that Jesus is gone. And the disciples go home.

But Mary stays, weeping at the entrance to the tomb, and then talking with two angels about her missing Lord. She sees a man she believes to be the gardener, and the man questions her about the weeping. When the man calls her by name, Mary recognizes him: the risen Jesus Christ.  Jesus tells her, “Go to my brothers and say to them ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  Mary obeys and reports the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples with her words, “I have seen the Lord.” 

And that brings us to where we are in today’s Gospel reading: the locked room on the evening of the resurrection. 

Apparently, there hasn’t been any response when Mary tells the disciples she’s seen the Lord. There’s no reaction, like “what did you say? really?”, or “that’s incredible, amazing!”. The text just fast forwards to the evening, with the disciples huddling together in a locked room.

This is an “in-between” time, after Jesus’ death and before the disciples see him again. I’d like us to pause in this room for a while. Jesus’ followers have just been through the worst thing possible – their rabbi’s betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. They’re still numb and in shock, in-between the execution and the comprehension of resurrection.

Still, wouldn’t you think that if you or I had heard Mary say, “I have seen the Lord” – that we might want to go out and look for him?  Why don’t the disciples go looking?  Why do they gather together behind locked doors?

Maybe it’s because the disciples just don’t believe Mary.  “Resurrected from the dead? Come on! This is crazy talk. She’s imagining things.”

Or maybe they do believe Mary, but they have no clue where to even begin looking for Jesus. Jerusalem is a big city after all! It doesn’t occur to any of them to come up with a plan, maybe split up and head out to look for him and then meet up later somewhere. No – they’re staying behind secured doors. 

…    Let’s speculate a bit about the conversations that might be taking place that evening.

Maybe they’re afraid.

Afraid of the Romans and the Judeans, thinking they might be arrested and suffer the same fate as Jesus. After all, wouldn’t there be Roman guards near the tomb ready to take Jesus’ followers into custody? Might not the Judean priests and leaders still be around wanting to have them arrested? Are the disciples fearful of being apprehended?

Here’s another thought. Could it be that they’re afraid of running into Jesus himself? It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to think the disciples might be feeling ashamed at their recent behavior: with Peter denying Jesus three times, and all them so frightened they were willing to abandon Jesus to save their own skin. How do you look your rabbi, your teacher and friend, how do you look him in the eye after you’ve deserted him?

Yes, it could be their fear or their shame keeping them in the locked room, but wouldn’t it also be natural in a situation like this to think Jesus might be holding a grudge?  What if he’s really angry?  It may sound ridiculous, but think of it:  if Jesus has come back, maybe his top priority will be getting even with the cowards.   

We can only guess what has them so frightened. Lots running through their minds after these exhausting days. 

… Easter day ends with locked doors and great fear …

… Are we, at the end of some of our days, so different from these disciples?

We all know about locks on our doors, the deadbolts and chains and the alarm systems.  Usually, we do this to lock the world out, but sometimes it’s also possible we’re locking ourselves in – to avoid our fear of dealing with hurt or because of anxiousness over some aspect of our lives.  We might be ashamed of something or afraid of running into someone.  Most of us have a skeleton or two in the closet, things that make us feel uncomfortable, unworthy. There are times we’re discouraged and don’t want to face the world. It’s not that tough to shut out the world - ignoring the phone calls we don’t want to answer, pretending we’re not at home, even pulling the shades.

And on the flip side, sometimes we’re locked out of the lives of those we truly care about. Maybe a family member caught in a cycle of physical abuse that we see as dangerous but they see as their only option. Perhaps a child trapped in a drug addiction requiring lies and secrets to keep hidden … Instances of parents and grandparents prevented from seeing a child or grandchild, as a means of “getting back” for some unknown insult.

     Yes, most of us have experienced such times, times when we lock ourselves in or others keep us out. We throw up our hands. We’ve no clue how we can possibly fix what’s wrong. What do we do with all the pain and frustration?

We really aren’t so different from the Easter evening disciples who are in that room. On whichever side of the bolted door we’re standing, we feel hurt and anxious.

So what does Jesus do this night?  He comes in anyway.  He enters the room – he enters the disciples’ hearts – he breaks into their shame – and he says, “Peace be with you.”  He’s telling them that everything is all right – he’s not holding a grudge – he’s not angry.  He doesn’t say a word about their past actions, their betrayals, their denials.  Instead, Jesus breathes on them the Holy Spirit.  He gives them the Spirit, the Spirit that says, of course, all is forgiven.  And he even sends them out into the world with a mission of forgiveness.  In effect, he’s saying – get yourselves out of this locked room so that my work, the work of the Lord, can move forward.

    …  At your house, and at my house, from where do we find the strength needed to get up, open our doors, and head out? From where do we get the courage to knock once more at the doors from which we are kept out?

The good news of Easter is that when we’re too ashamed or too paralyzed by difficulties in our lives, when we’re grieving and steeling ourselves against pain – our locks won’t stop Jesus.

We can call on Jesus, and trust that he will appear right in the middle of our messy situations, to give us strength so that we can hear his words, “Peace be with you.”  We will be reminded of the holes in his hands and the slit in his side, the sacred signs that are proof he gives us peace:  the genuine article – real deal peace – the kind granted to the fearful disciples that night and granted also to the disciple who doubted, Thomas, a week later.

Jesus Christ has freed his disciples and he has freed all of us from being locked up.  We are freed to do the work that needs doing to move forward the Kingdom of God.  We are called to leave our rooms and go out – with courage – knowing that we have Christ’s peace – that we have purpose – and that we have the power he grants us – to share ourselves with those whose lives are

  • locked by grief, like Mary;
  • locked by fear and shame, like the disciples;
  • or locked by darkness, wherever it is found in our lives.

Peace be with you.

Amen.

Vicar Terry Frankenstein

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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