Year C, The Second Sunday of Easter: April 24, 2022
Year C: Psalm 118:14-29; 11 Acts 5:27-32; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
One week ago, we gathered in a joyful celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. We boldly and joyfully proclaimed that Christ is Risen.
As we reflect on where we find ourselves today, it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been, acknowledge where we are, and look toward the future.
One year ago, we still had our worship services on Zoom. But Easter came last year. It came again last week.
And, here we are, one week later. Every year on this Sunday, we hear the same Gospel, which is John’s telling of the story of Easter Day and the first Sunday after Easter Day. It’s often known as Doubting Thomas Sunday. The gospel reading about the apostle who refused to believe unless he could see for himself firsthand is always assigned for the Sunday following Easter.
And while Thomas often gets most of the attention, today is truly all about the heart of the faith—about who we are and who God is; it’s about what we can and can’t do.
First of all, today is about locked doors. The disciples are hiding behind locked doors because they’re afraid. They’re fearful of the religious leaders; they’re scared of the crowds; and they’re probably a bit afraid of a Messiah who has come back from the dead and who might want to settle scores with a bunch of cowardly disciples who had, quite literally, left him hanging. So, for whatever reason, the doors are locked.
I suspect most of us know about locked doors—things that keep us inside and limited and away from the most there can be. We all have our own locks – things like fear and doubt and anger and resentments – things like our own personal history, wounds, self-righteousness and pride, and, of course, our own sin.
In many ways, this is the natural human condition. We’re all like this. Part of what it means to be a human being, a person in the world, is to live behind closed and locked doors. Sometimes it’s because that’s what we want, sometimes it’s despite what we want, sometimes it’s even though we desperately desire ourselves and our lives to be different. This is part of what it means to be a person. One way to describe this is alienation, being separated, in fundamental ways, from the natural world, from each other, from God, and from ourselves.
Also, note that so much of what we do when we are at our worst comes from trying to fix this emptiness on our own.
So much of the awful stuff we do to ourselves and each other is the result of realizing that there’s something wrong. So we’re forever trying to find a person, or a program, or a pastime, or a substance, or a belief, or a new thing, or more of something, or a whatever, that will either get us out of the box we realize we’re in, or make us comfortable and happy, or at least numb and pain-free. Yet, at the same time, we continue to live in it.
But these never work, not for the long haul. We discover that we are limited and incomplete and can’t fix this all by ourselves. We make a bigger mess than we started out with when we try.
Easter, of course, is about the fact that God comes through the locked doors and offers us peace, God’s love, the possibility of faith, and new life. And it’s all a gift—slid under our locked doors. The disciples don’t do anything noble, heroic, or even mildly admirable in the gospel story. Remember, the last things they showed Jesus were their backs as they ran away. The last thing we heard from Peter was his denying three times that he even knew Jesus. After that, the disciples hide out. That’s all they do. But Jesus comes through the locks, and he offers peace.
Then, a week later, Jesus again appeared to the disciples. Notice what they have done that week. They have kept the doors locked, and they have failed even to convert Thomas—the testimony of the entire church wasn’t persuasive or compelling enough to convince the one guy who wants to believe. Maybe this should be referred to not as “Doubting Thomas” but the “Unpersuasive Disciples.”
And once more, the Lord comes to them. Once more, Jesus comes without conditions, demands, recriminations, or malice. Even though the doors are locked, even though they haven’t done a single thing worth writing home about, Jesus comes to them, and, as God over the form of Adam in Genesis, he continues to breathe his Spirit into them and make new life possible.
We sometimes struggle to unlock doors in our life. But, like Thomas, we haven’t seen Jesus. But like Thomas, do we want to?
Do we believe, and do we live our lives as we do?
“To believe” – taken from the Greek root meaning “to give one’s heart to.” It’s more than just feelings. It’s about ourselves, all of us, that we give our heart to the belief that Christ lives. Jesus lives.
Maybe as we settle back into familiar rhythms and patterns and go “back to normal,” whatever that means, today is a reminder that we aren’t always quite as remarkable and as potent as we might believe after a magnificent Holy Week and Easter. Maybe this is a good time to remember that we don’t have to do anything. We could potentially stand there, afraid, behind locked doors.
No. We have work to do: holy, important work to do. It’s time for us to unlock those doors, be in community, and be about the Lord’s work. As Henri Nouwen famously put it, “The great mystery of God’s revelation in Christ is that he not only came, lived, died, and rose among us, but that he continues to come, to live, to die, and to rise in our midst.
And when Jesus came, lived, died, and rose in our midst, he brought a proclamation of peace, which we might think of as a standard form of greeting. But it is far more than that. A proclamation of peace is an ancient Hebrew blessing that offers God’s Shalom, or wholeness.
We are to take that peace to the world. But in doing so, we must remember that we can do nothing. God does everything.
The author Madeline L’Engle once said, “Every Christmas, we come to the manger…and ask the same question: “Is everything all right?” Every Easter we come to the tomb and ask the same question: “Is everything all right?”
Jesus assures us that it is.
It is time to unlock the door. It is time to believe. Rejoice in the life that God has given us.
 Quoted in Forward Day by Day, Foreward Movement, Cincinnati, OH, May 15, 2011, 16.
 Irreverent Relevancies: Selected Sermons 1983-2008, Edited by Kathleen Murat Williams, The Reverend Christopher Morgan Brookfield, p. 217, (whole, holy, and health) derived from the same root
 Madeline L’Engle, The Summer of the Great Grandmother
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.