This has been a rough week. Unemployment numbers are high. Covid-19 infection rates are still climbing in several states and throughout much of the world. The country is embroiled with protest. I find it frightening how the protesters are called to be dominated by military force and cities spoken of as battle spaces. Amazing how the call for racial justice leads to such hostility. Where will this end as we proceed into summer? Will the protests continue? To what extent will force be used in the effort to stop the protests? This has been a rough week and what will next week bring?
The final verse has Jesus telling the disciples:
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age
These words of Jesus are comforting because we don’t want to be alone in times like this. We want God to be with us. However, what does this really mean? Often we talk of Jesus as being a companion, a buddy, someone supportive of our efforts and goals. Yet, Jesus’ promise to always be with us goes much deeper than simply being a friend or rubber-stamping our political agendas. Jesus told the disciples to go and baptize…make disciples of all nations…teach others to obey the things he commanded. The great challenge in this is that Jesus didn’t teach that people were to be dominated by military force or that cities are battle-spaces. The Roman Empire did this, including crucifixions. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are proof that the ways of God’s kingdom are far different. If we are to teach the ways of the kingdom which contradict “might makes right,” then we really do need him…we need him.
Jesus was leaving the disciples and they did two things, worship and doubt. A great summation of the life of faith. The life of faith includes worship which is the easy part. The life of faith that teaches a contradiction to the powers of the world, is one of worry and fear and doubt. We need Jesus with us.
As you go into another new week which looks like a continuation of the last, remember Jesus’ promise to you…he is with you always.
A week has now passed since we celebrated Easter behind the closed doors in fear of Covid-19. Easter was different this year. It was more introspective. Without the usual activities surrounding the day and filled churches, we were left to wonder what does the resurrection say to us behind the closed doors? If we are willing to allow the Spirit to speak in our wondering, we just might discover a greater depth to what we believe and a hope that goes far beyond hurrying to open up the economy and get life back to normal.
On that first day of the resurrection, the Gospel of John tells of the disciples hiding in fear behind closed doors. They had good reason with fear of Roman soldiers wandering in the streets making sure peace was being kept along with the fear of what will the future hold with Jesus’ crucifixion. However, earlier in the day Mary Magdalene had told them that she had seen the Lord and passed on the risen Jesus’ words to them. Perhaps their greatest fear was facing Jesus whom they had abandoned and denied. Then he appeared, wounds and all. Their fear was suddenly changed to celebration with Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!” The Lord who beat death and was ushering in the reign of God with the start of a new creation appeared to them, not for revenge or to judge but to forgive. The disciples were sent out by Jesus with the Spirit and a message of forgiveness.
On that first day, Thomas was missing. Even though he got the news, he wouldn’t believe until he had proof – he wanted to physically inspect the wounds for himself. A week later he was present when Jesus appeared and this time Jesus gave Thomas the invitation to go ahead and even stick his fingers in the wounds. Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” I think that we would all like the opportunity for our doubts and fears to be replaced by physical proof and to have God stand before us and announce “Peace.” What we do have in these days is the witness of others, the belief of parents and friends. They tell us that God has not abandoned us and this world but has taken on its wounds and death giving forgiveness and life instead. They show us that the statement “My Lord and my God” is more than a formula to be recited but an intense hope of healing as a new creation is brought into being.
Now we still huddle behind doors for fear of the pandemic. Now our hopes may be on returning to normal and reopening the economy. Now we worry about toilet paper shortages, masks and social distancing. What Easter tells us is that God has shown up in this world and taken on our sickness to bring forgiveness and life instead. What Easter instills in us is a hope of a new creation healed in Jesus Christ risen.
As Jesus said, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”