2nd Easter 2020 in a Pandemic

2nd Easter 2020

Chatfield UMC

John 20:19-31 & Psalm 16:5-11

Rev. Debra Jene Collum

In our gospel reading for today, we find the disciples sequestered in a locked room for fear of the authorities. From the gospel of John:

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, the Savior showed them the marks of crucifixion. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you.

And then the gospel continues by telling us that eight days later they were in that same room.

Eight days later, even after Jesus came to them and showed them his scars

Even after Jesus gave them a blessing

Even after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into their midst.

Eight days later, even after they heard the word “Peace” from their Savior;

even then, they were in that room.

Eight days later.

It takes a long time for the disciples to regain their confidence.

It takes a long time for the disciples to find the power within themselves to leave the room

It takes a long time for the disciples to find the courage to go into the world to do ministry.

I think it is going to be that way for us, don’t you think? I think it will be a long time before we will be able to confidently go into the world

I think it will be a long time before we will be able to confidently find a way of being people together again.

Trusting that a hand shake won’t create another pandemic. Or a cough will just be a cough. Or a sneeze will be something we bless and not fear.

We know that we will enter back into life fully again. We are even envisioning it. Filled pews. Eating at restaurant tables instead of take-out meals. Going to the library.

What is it that you are dreaming about doing?

In the gospel Thomas arrives at the upper room with the disciples a little late. He doesn’t believe that Jesus has shown up in person. Until he sees the scars he won’t believe.

We like, Thomas, will need to see the signs that all is well again.

We will need to see the charts that show us that the virus is contained.

We will need to have the inoculation.

We will need to feel the needle in our own arms

We will need to be assured that we have the immunity.

And more importantly, we will need to know that our loved ones are no longer at risk.

We will need a sign.

Before we will trust that we are safe.

I am getting questions about summer programing, what will it look like?

We don’t know.

All the articles I read from all the trusted journals can’t predict anything right now, except that we have to wait and see where this all goes…

It is still dark and we are still in the upper room. Waiting for that breath of salvation.

We have been sharing, throughout this pandemic that what we are going through has been gone through before. By our ancestors in the faith.

In the scriptures the number 40 is used to talk about the time people struggle in their pursuit of spiritual growth. The Hebrew children wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus, Moses and Elijah fasting in the desert for 40 days, Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David killed him, and it rained and flooded for 40 days and 40 nights during the time of Noah.

Our ancestors have gone through vast amounts of time of trial and tribulations.

And they have written scripture to reflect on what it is like to be so fearful that you aren’t sure whether you or your loved ones will survive.

They have written sacred words that speak to the fear of loss of job, security, or certainty.

They have written scripture to assure us that no matter what we go through God is already there with us. Before we even step a foot or a big toe into the trial.

God is already with us.

Giving us a perspective that transcends fear.

The Psalm appointed for today is a classic example. Hear Psalm 16 from the Message translation of the bible:

My choice is you, God, first and only.

    And now I find I’m your choice!

It is hard to know which comes first, we of course think it is our decision to follow God that comes first, but we know when we reach out to God, God is already there. Because God choses us every single time. The psalm continues:

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake

    is confirmed by my sleeping heart.

I know the Lord is always with me.

    I will not be shaken, for God is right beside me.

We need these reminders so much right now. I think nights can be the hardest. I am not waking up quite as much as I did three weeks ago. Was it just three weeks ago??? But I still have moments when sleep doesn’t come.

I have something called Pray as you Go on my phone that I listen to every night which has really helped me focus and calm my mind. Hearing God’s word read with some beautiful music in the background, does center me and ground me and relaxes my anxiety.

I really encourage you to do something spiritually grounding before you sleep at night so that God can whisper wisdom into your mind and you can feel God’s unending presence as you try to sleep. Rest is so important in this pandemic.

And now the Psalmist writes something that may sound counter productive in this stay at home state we are in:

You set me up with a house and yard.

    And then you made me your heir!

You set me up with a house and yard. Now we might be sick of being in this house we are in. And we might be somewhat concerned about whether we can pay the mortgage or rent. But the psalm reminds us that we are given a place to live by God. And a place to call home for all of our lives, in the household of God. Not something made with walls and a roof but a household complete with a yard that fills the entire earth and cosmos.

Just this last week we experienced what it meant to be in the household of God. A number of us, many of us, drove in two caravans to Bev Jorde’s house to help her celebrate her birthday. With warm coats, gloves, and masks we gathered together but apart as the church to say to one of our own, we love you and we celebrate your life. And those who couldn’t be there could see it on line. Or sent cards. Or made calls. It was church gathered. And it was beautiful.

Together/apart we are still the household of God. It is a gift God has given us. And nothing will come to separate us from that inheritance we have through God’s love.

Now, these assurances do not, DO NOT, relieve us of uncertainty or stress or struggle. They do not remove the danger of the virus. They do not mean we won’t see the consequences of all this might mean…

We are still in a room in a dark place, but we know that we are not in that room alone. Jesus, God’s very own presence, walks in through the locked door and the first word out of his mouth is Peace…

Breathe in God’s Spirit and presence…Breathe in Peace

While it may be dark and we may have 40 more days of trial and separation

Breathe in God’s Spirit and presence…Breathe in Peace

For this room that we are in is within the household of God. Together even as we are apart.

Breathe in God’s Spirit and presence…Breathe in Peace