Peace Be With You!

This was given on the Sunday after Easter with the following scriptures: John 20:19-31, Acts 2:14a & 22-32, and I Peter 1:3-9. I had the title as: Are We Believers or Doubters?, but it really didn’t fit, so that is why I changed it for above.

This past week, I went along to Hazen with James to a track meet. It was a fairly nice day, though the wind was blowing, but then when doesn’t it blow around here? Things were going along pretty well, athletes were performing about where we expected, some a little better, and during the 200 his fastest boy pulled up lame. He tore his hamstring muscle. Not a pull or a strain, he went to a sports medicine doctor the next day, and it is torn. We hope he will be healed enough to play football next fall. Fortunately he is only a freshman, he has years left.

The experience made us stop and ask, “Was it something we did or didn’t do in training? What could we have done differently? What is causing the other aches and pains that some have been verbalizing? Why is it some are hurting, but not others? What can we do? What should we change?

In the meantime, I was hoping that by this morning, I would feel a bit more like I felt last Sunday. It was a beautiful day, the church was pretty full, we had dinner waiting at our house, and company coming, and it was going to be a great day. The truth is that this whole week, I have been feeling like Easter was more like last month or last year than last Sunday. I am not sure if it was a bug, or just circumstances, but I think that I have learned the value of liquids and rest. By the time Tuesday night hit, I wasn’t moving anyplace fast.

I didn’t realize how much I have come to feel the routine of being here on Wednesdays. But it sure made for a strange week when I wasn’t able to get here this week. And now it really feels like Easter was so long ago. I think there was a movie line to the effect of: this morning was one day, and then this afternoon that was another day, and the evening was a day, and on and on. Somehow, I feel like this week has been a month-long.

I wonder how long those three days from the night when Jesus was betrayed to the early morning when his tomb was empty, how long that must have felt to the disciples. And now the scripture we are considering for today is not even that early morning, it isn’t the sunrise when Mary and the others found that stone rolled away from the tomb and the cloths that covered Jesus’ body all laying to the side, and his body is gone.

The passage in John that we read for today says, it is night, or at least evening. The sun is going down, and the disciples are together in the room. It is the very room where they were all together just a few days ago. They locked the door. They are afraid, maybe not so much afraid because Jesus is dead. They must believe the stories that he is risen. Or do they? Are they sure? Did Mary and Peter and the other disciple really see what they saw? Is Jesus really alive? What does that mean for them? Will the authorities come and try to execute them, to stop them from telling about the resurrection? What could they have done to prevent Jesus’ death? Could they have done something? Should they have done something? I know there is more to the passage than the opening, but I just wonder what was the attitude of the disciples as they were gathering in that room on the evening of what we call Easter Sunday.

On Friday, I substituted for my sister so she could go to Sioux Falls and meet her son. He flew in from Italy where he had been stationed in the army. On the way to school that morning, I had my speech ready for a couple of the characters that she has in class. I was ready to write out papers for them to have detention if they behaved the same way that they had the last time that I was at school. I was putting my foot down. I was ready to take on the fight; I wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Thinking about my attitude that morning, I remembered when my brother made a comment to my mother that stuck in my craw for a long time, yet might have been a good thing for me to hear. His remark was a question about whether I was ever happy. I don’t remember exactly where I was working at the time, but I do remember being cranky quite often, and I know now just how hard it is to deal with someone like that. The issue is I had myself convinced that if you prepared for the worst and always expected the worst, like the bad behavior I was so ready to fight on Friday morning, then when things turn out well, then everything would feel so much better. I thought that I had an “expect the worst,” but “hope for the best” attitude. But the truth is that I just had a bad attitude. I was what you would call a Negative Nelly or maybe a Debbie Downer.

Now I am not so certain that the disciples were having a bad attitude. They were likely pretty nervous about what to do next. They had just spent three-year with Jesus following his every lead, and now they are alone. They know that he had tried to teach them about what would happen, but I am not so sure they were really ready for all of this so fast. It seems that they know Jesus isn’t in the tomb. They know that certain members of the disciples have seen him and talked to him, so he must be alive, but is he really and how do they feel about what happened? And what could they have done to give this a better outcome? I think that maybe Thomas isn’t the only Doubter in this mix, but he might just be the only one who has the courage to say what he is feeling.

This whole idea of Jesus coming into the locked room and spending just short pieces of time with the disciples sort of makes me think of grown children coming home for a visit, even if it is for the summer, or an extended time like when Victoria stayed with us a couple of months last year when they were between houses. It isn’t the same as when they were living at home, growing up, babies then children then teenagers. Once they move out, it is never really the same. Jesus has moved out. Life for the disciples will never be the same. Yes, he came back, and they see him, and they know that he is alive, but he won’t be staying with them in the same way ever again. Those walks from town to town, those boat rides, the late night sessions listening to him teach them things that they couldn’t understand, those times are all over. Life for the disciples has changed.

And though, I sort of want to look at it from their perspective, from the view-point of the disciples, with nostalgia and a bit of sadness, the truth is that for our sakes it is more of a Thank Goodness that it happened moment, and it is a rejoicing that life was and is completely changed for anyone who believes. As soon as God sent Jesus to earth, nothing could be the same. We need to say Hurrah and Hallelujah for that fact. We should be rejoicing and singing and dancing in the streets that the scripture of today is about what it is about.

This scripture has lots of points. We could have focused more on Thomas. We could have talked about the fact that this is in essence the gospel of John’s version of the Pentecost because Jesus seems to give them the spirit as he breathes on them. But for me today, this Sunday a month or two after Easter at least that is how it feels for me, today’s lesson is about the fact that Jesus keeps repeating the phrase, “Peace be with you.” It is in verses 19, 21 and again in 26. Peace what a wonderful concept. What a wonderful attitude. If we all really accepted the peace of Christ and carried it with us in our innermost being, we wouldn’t have all those goofy questions or nagging doubts or snarky attitudes that we sometimes feel and pass on to others.

What if what we passed to others on was the Peace of Christ? Because Jesus died and rose again, we have that opportunity. Because he gives us the same Peace that he offered his disciples, we too can respond as Thomas eventually did by saying and meaning, “My Lord and my God.” Let’s go out this week and pass on the Peace of Christ to someone who really needs it. Amen.

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