Risen & Revealed

Risen & Revealed

John 20:19-31

On Easter evening we’re told that the terrified disciples of Jesus gathered behind locked doors. Who could blame them…? But despite those locks and all their very significant fears, an awareness of the risen Christ arose and was right there among them.

I love how Bishop Will Willimon begins his commentary on today’s text – and I’m grateful for his thoughts as part of my preparation for today’s message: The risen Christ does not wait for us to figure out a way to come to him; Christ comes to us, shows himself to us, speaks to us, and then sends us out in his name. We believe in Christ, we follow Christ, not because we have found a way to believe in him but rather because he has quite wonderfully found a way toward us.

Jesus’s disciples were terrified! Hunkered down behind closed doors!

They who had witnessed all of Jesus’s work, they who had been present for all of his teaching and seen his many miracles — were now hiding behind locked doors, gripped by their fears: both real and imagined!
PETRIFIED!

That is what death, defeat, and disappointment always does to us. We may try some new venture and fail. Perhaps badly! When that happens, we can so easily become fearful that we will never have what it takes to succeed – just lock ourselves away in broken self-esteem misery!

Or perhaps it’s after a beloved partner dies, or a parent, and we are left bereft! Feel so alone! “Now what is going to become of me – lock ourselves away in our grief!

Or what that person said after their partner had dumped him for somebody else.

“I’m not sad so much as afraid – I’m afraid that I may never risk loving anybody else again.”

Death, disappointment, and defeat all lead to fear. And fear steals our lives! Fear locks us up! It shuts us down! It shuts others out.It happens to us as individuals and to us as communities…

Well, after all the horror of that Easter week, those disciples were gripped by just such a fear. “Now that Jesus has been captured, executed, what about us?

Will the same murderous authorities who tortured Jesus to death now be out for us? We really hoped that we might win the support of people and throw off the yoke of Roman oppression, but now just look what they’ve done to our hopes.

And yet it was to just this frightened bunch of very ordinary people that the risen Christ appeared… …and appeared through their locked doors – reassuring them with, “Peace!” SHALOM! Then, we’re told that he breathed God’s own Holy Presence Spirit into them…
…not unlike what God did to Adam at the beginning of scripture…
Adam who was just a lifeless lump of earth until he was God-breathed and came alive…

This is the risen Jesus empowering them too to come alive – just as with the original creation – empowering them to burst out of that locked room and into the whole world with the enacted/lived out good news of how they had “…seen the Lord!”

The risen Christ had found a way to get through to them, to stand among them, and to bless them.
EMPOWER THEM!!!
And these half-hearted, frightened followers were transformed into believing, active disciples.

That’s what I think happens in our lives wherever we are moved from despair to hope!
When have you ever actually experienced that? Seriously? What made the difference?

It’s only Christ who can give us a hope-filled future when things seem lost and meaningless!
And yet, somehow – as we are given to see it – He does!

We are so good at building walls, and locking up our doors – thank God that Christ gets through those walls we build – walls of defeat and despair in order, from standing among us, encouraging us, reassuring us, breathing upon us…
…He sends us out!!!

GO!
Pick up your bed and walk!
GO!
Come alive! Sin no more!
Take off his grave clothes, LET HIM GO!

It was American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer Marianne Williamson who wrote:

Our playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine… It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I was kind of shocked by Carmen Lansdowne’s Easter post of a few years ago, where she described herself as being BORED BY EASTER!!!
Carmen, Who is, God-willing our next General Council Moderator Designate.
She writes of how she is:

…bored with Easter is because Jesus dying for my sins does not really compel me. Yes I know there is sin in my life. And yes I’m glad that Jesus has worked on me and is working on me. But I’m being honest here, it is not enough. I don’t think that my personal “wretchedness” is enough to make Easter impactful every year.

…I need an Easter that has something to say out here in the world to survivors of Indian Boarding schools, and the generations of those traumatized by its legacy …I need an Easter that has something to say to young queer believers who are considering suicide instead of coming out …I need an Easter that sees and helps undocumented people whose families are being torn apart …I need an Easter that can address gun violence – in the USA and everywhere …I need an Easter that addresses mass incarceration and the for profit prison system …that doesn’t just talk about living water, but gets clean water to everywhere were it is needed …where sexual violence against women, especially women of color, is talked about openly and addressed courageously. Every year Easter is about individual sin in here! But I need an Easter that is big enough for our collective sin and brokenness, out there big enough for our systemic and institutionalized brokenness. I need an Easter that goes beyond the personal. The things that overwhelm my heart and soul right now have less to do with my personal wretchedness, than the brokenness of the systems I’m embedded in, participate in, and that impact me and the communities I love.

And resurrection? I need a resurrection that brings life to the environment, to water, to land, to air. I need a resurrection that brings life to missing and murdered indigenous women. I need a resurrection that ends anti-blackness. I need a resurrection that brings life to so much more than just me individually. The verse I think about the most lately is, “For God so loved the WORLD.”

We are here this morning as people only because the risen Christ somehow has found or is finding a way to show up in our lives!!!
We’re here because Christ has come through our locked doors – our doubts/fears/insecurities…and chosen somehow to reveal himself to us…
…and then He sends us out in His name to make His difference IN HIS WORLD!!!

That’s what makes us disciples. That’s what makes us a church.

Our job is to own that and act on that! Even as John described Jesus saying in ch14 (vs 12)

Whenever we are about to give up hope – because of Jesus’ physical resurrection appearances both then and in our lives now, we MUST remember that we have a future.

It’s then that Jesus may come to you and me even as he came to his first frightened followers…

He comes to reassure, to breathe new life into us, to give us a future that we could never give ourselves.

That is our hope—that Jesus comes to us. Raises up our awareness of Christ risen in us!
…AND THEN COMPELS US TO GO OUT and to BE His difference in the world!


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