St. Paul’s Second Sunday in Easter, 4.19.2020 Preached by The Rev. Carolyn Eklund
Year A; 2 Easter; 4.19.2020
John 20:19-31
Who among us has not felt like a scared disciple behind a closed door once or twice in these past four weeks?! Raise your hand.
I, for one, am not raising my hand. This is a scary time.
I fear the virus and I don’t go out much. Last week, I looked out of the window first before I opened my door, and stood several feet away, not very hospitably, to the neighbor who brought a piece of Easter cake to me.
There was a guy who came to my door yesterday afternoon after I had just come in from walking Sophie and had securely closed the door. He had a mask on. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open the door. But his eyes looked familiar, and at once, I saw that it was Bishop Brown who had baked little carrot cupcakes for me! It was kind of like how the resurrected Jesus appeared at first, not recognized and then suddenly was! I am sure Bishop Brown will laugh when he finds out I compared him to Jesus!!
We are doing a great job in Maine of staying at home behind closed doors. The spread of the disease has decelerated. The rate of infection has slowed down…we hope. And we have stayed behind a closed door for the most part.
The gospel story today introduces the disciples who were also behind a locked door because they were afraid. I doubt they answered the door if a person knocked. They feared the corrupt and murderous authorities – they feared for their lives.
Somehow, Thomas was not present when Jesus made his resurrection appearance behind that locked door. Maybe Thomas was the designated person to go out and get the groceries that week and had to wait in line six feet apart!
Whatever the case, Thomas was not present. He did not hear Jesus greet the remaining ten disciples with the “peace”. He did not receive his dose of spirit-filled breath (oh my gosh, breath!) that carried Jesus’ instructions for forgiveness. He did not see with his own eyes, and therefore, did not believe Jesus had been raised.
Thomas risks overshadowing Jesus as the subject of the gospel story this Second Sunday of Easter because so many of us, even the most devout identify with his doubt. He had to have that second chance, that second appearance a week later to be convinced and believe.
So much of John’s gospel uses the metaphor of blindness for lack of awareness and for unbelief. Thomas is in that category. He just has to see to believe. And then Jesus gives him a second chance. Jesus is always giving second chances. And there, the fresh wounds in his hands and side are the proof. Thomas dropped to his knees saying, “My Lord and my God!”
And today we add to Thomas’ exclamation of faith, “Alleluia! Christ is risen.”
“The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
Thank you Thomas for finally seeing, believing and getting with the resurrection program!
This Easter week it has been a joy to say “Alleluia” assertively and with vigor. Whether we fully believe or have our doubts, “Alleluia” is a word of praise and truth and joy uttered, whispered or shouted in a most difficult time right now.
Brother Curtis Almquist, a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist wrote about “Hallelujah” in the daily “Brother, Give Us A Word” segment this week. Rick Wile shared this most wonderful reflection with me as I went a little crazy saying “alleluia” many times in Morning Prayer and Compline this week. Why not? I say, “It’s Easter week and we joyfully celebrate 50 whole days of Christ’s resurrection from the dead! Alleluia!”
I’ll never say alleluia the same again after reading Brother Almquist’s reflection.
“Hallelujah” he writes,
“Life on earth is real, indeed, but it’s also a preparation and participation in the life that is to come. By saying ‘Hallelujah’ we put ourselves in our place: creatures of God, participating in bringing the mission of God to earth. Saying ‘Hallelujah’ expresses our personal gratitude for the gift of life and the giver of life.”
I love being called “a creature of God.” I love being a participant with God in bringing the mission of God to earth. Thomas did that in his declaration of “My Lord and my God.” We do this when we take the peace of Christ to others and follow his resurrection instruction, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…”
Peace and forgiveness, the mission of God. Alleluia.
Saying “Alleluia” for me sweeps the darkness and uncertainty away for a few moments and opens my spirit to the possibility of being a “creature” who lives in peace and with a spirit of reconciliation. The whole terrible and wonderful mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection is what we believe when we “carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world” – this world which is so very broken and scary.
I believe that we are in for a long period of uncertainty and instability in our country and in the world. Peace and reconciliation seem so very far away from where we are now. There is real terror in some people at the prospect of financial ruin in this pandemic during which we are to STAY AT HOME for the sake of containing the spread of this deadly virus. Tragically, many people are unable to work in order to stay at home and to prevent spreading the virus.
I imagine that some people are still reeling from the panic after they lost so much in the 2008 stock market and housing market. That was a man-made crash brought on by greed. Corrupt and risky financial speculations were invented to “bet” on stocks and the housing market. This created a false financial “bubble” increase. The bubble burst because the speculation could not be sustained. A loved one to this day who sold their home “under water” is panicked and has not gotten over their financial ruin.
I can see why some want to open up the country “for business” in order not to lose billions like they did twelve years ago. It is a mistake, and when I hear talk show voices casually mentioning “sacrificing” 2 or 3 percent of school children to “open up the country” for the financial gain of business, that is wrong and against everything people of faith believe. I can hear this voice of evil and greed threatening the common good.
I know that parents are struggling for a way to normalize a very abnormal schedule for our children. Play dates are not possible. Some parents tell me that they are out of their comfort zone trying to teach their children. And certainly they feel stressed about what to tell their children about the pandemic, when to tell them, if they should tell them and how to tell them.
There was a darling Sesame Street video that aired this week for parents. It is called, “Elmo’s Dad Sends a PSA to Overwhelmed Parents at Home: You Are Doing an Amazing Job.” Did you even know Elmo had a dad? Do you know his name? It’s Louie. Louie is his name.
In an article that introduced this adorable and heartfelt video, the reporter writes, “…Louie applauded moms and dads for their tireless efforts to keep their kids healthy, safe, and entertained, but acknowledged this time can be overwhelming. He encouraged parents to take a moment for themselves: listen to a favorite song, stretch, or just breathe.”
Louie, Elmo’s dad looks into the camera and says, “We are all doing the best we can, and that is OK.”
And then he immediately exits “stage left” to build a “pillow fort”!
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
And when you build YOUR “pillow fort”, make it a secure place of peace and laughter and love.