Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. John 20:19-31

When it was evening of the that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Gospel of the Lord


The "Upper Room Experience", Taking time for our spiritual awakening

I have a feeling that, for some of us, Easter has come and gone all too quickly, and now we're not sure what to do with ourselves. If you are in touch with this feeling, you might be thinking that somehow you have missed something -- the resurrected Lord has appeared to Mary and some of the other disciples, you have heard that Jesus is not in the tomb, but is risen! And its not that we donít believe, but more that it all happened so quickly, and we canít quite grasp the meaning of Jesus -- now risen from the dead(?!).

I think that the problem for us, is that we are not ready to carry the full weight of the resurrected Lord into the days and practical parts of our lives that follow the Easter announcement.

Perhaps this sounds absurd to some of us who consider ourselves to be the "Easter People", weíre ready to take on the world -- but I'm not sure that such exuberance is warranted, at least not without some "care-filled" thought.

>>> More likely we are like the disciples in today's Gospel lesson. We have retreated to the Upper Room for fear of what the world may think of who we are or what we believe. Our fears could be literal, in the sense that some people in the world do fear that they will be persecuted for their faith; but more likely our fears are internalized or formed in our minds alone.

----We are simply not ready to venture beyond our personal life of faith. Weíre not ready to do the things that Jesus did or even to practice what Jesus has taught us! Part of our discomfort is that we need a little more convincing that Jesus really is raised from the dead and Jesus really is present with us--walking beside us through life's ups and downs. ??Does this sound familiar?? (OK -- "Thomas!!"(

What we need is to Have our faith verified and to develop an inner-assurance that the resurrected Christ will lead us and carry us through our doubts and fears in this life.

Of course, the good thing about living in the "Upper Room experience": is that we are not alone! We are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in the faith, as well as: parents, children, immediate family, and many friends. And so, like the disciples in the Upper Room, as a group -- remaining together, we wrestle with our doubts and fears and we wait for God to show us what the resurrected life of Christ means for our earthly existence.

This means that we, who have "so little understanding", are waiting to be filled with "understanding." And so we wait on God to make something happen.

Are we waiting to have an experience with the resurrected Jesus?

Or . . . Are we like the disciples in the Upper Room who are waiting for something bad to happen? (Like if the Roman soldiers were to break into the quietness of the Upper Room, or if we were to hear some bad news on the TV, or by a phone call) Being human, it is easy to give-in to our fears, we are so easily convinced by what we hear and see happening in the world around us, since most of what is reported by the media is discouraging news, and it is frightening and we donít wish to hear any more.

And so, like the disciples, we give in -- to negativity and fear.

If you are willing to confess, along with me, that we are all part of this "Upper Room Fellowship" Ė (fearful and easily discouraged) -- and that we are a people who are waiting for something to happen, though never sure exactly what it is . . . . Then, let's talk for another moment about what it means to be a people in waiting. In fact, we are in a period of transition, and it is important for us to reflect on what has happened, and what will be happening in the near future.

In a book entitled: Making Sense of Life's Transitions, author, William Bridges, discusses the times when we go through lifeís changes: Often when TOO MANY NEW THINGS are happening around us, we have a need to "get away from it all." Bridges calls these times the "Neutral Zone Experience." "The "neutral zone" is not an important part of the transition process -- it is only "a temporary period of time" or "state" to be endured." Transitionary times are periods of time that we often (in our busy lives) think of as lost time,

because we are such a production oriented people . . . we always think we have to be doing something or producing something. And so we become uncomfortable with ourselves if we are not given something to do, or out getting something physical to possess for our own. We have this need to keep "occupied" so that we can cast our anxiety and fears to the side and instead, "busy ourselves" with the new thing or new opportunity for distraction that presents itself. This is our natural tendency -- we donít wish to engage in a thoughtful dialogue with fear or doubt, we would prefer to escape this and put it off. But God wants us to engage the fear -- to honestly and openly bring it to him. There we will encounter the living God.

Consider, for a moment, a time when you needed to get away from the routines of work or child care or create some much needed space between you and your loved ones . . . . We could call this the "Upper Room Retreat Time."

Moments like this should not be viewed as wasted time or a set back to your productivity as a parent, worker, student, or citizen, but spending such a quantity and quality of time in contemplation (such as: about your life, about God, or about what might seem like nothing at all) is an investment in your personal development and relationship building. -- To spend such time is to invest in your soul -- recall the words of the Psalmist, "He Restoreth My Soul.

Most often a little break between one life event and the next results in healthy reflection about what is really going on in a relationship or in a situation. "Transition space" can allow us to acknowledge and claim for ourselves that we have changed as the conditions have changed around us.

From the perspective of our Faith, it is important that we recognize that we spent the forty days of Lent examining the darkness in our lives and in the world. Indeed we have also experienced some tragic events happening around us. All of the events of the world and even here at home, have consumed us and drawn deeply from our emotional reserves. It may be that you and I need to take an extended stay in the Upper Room, before we are ready to go out again into the bright lights and frantic pace of the world . . . . God knows this, and he will be there with you and for you.

The good news is that Jesus has been Raised from the Grave!

The Easter Story is fulfilled! And Jesus, who died, is now present with us once again!! THIS! (The empty tomb, the neatly folded grave clothes and the fear and joy of the women who flee the empty tomb) is the reality that we are finding hard to comprehend, and we are in the process of transitioning from the former darkness into the light and power of The Risen Christ.

Today we are going from our "Upper Room Experience", the "Neutral Zone" in time -- to experiencing Jesus present among us. From todayís lesson about Doubting Thomas, he comes to us and says:

"Peace, Be Still." "Peace be with you."

"Do not doubt anymore, but believe." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." I will not leave you nor forsake you -- you are my children, Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you." In his living Word you and I can experience the reality of the peace and love that Jesus is for us.

This is the time of our transition, We are in a movement from death unto life, and we need to allow ourselves and others the space and time to sort things out -- It is a time to refocus on the mission Jesus prepares us for. But it is also a time of quiet reflection, remembering all that has gone before.

Jesus says, "Peace be with you. Behold, my hands and my side."

"Peace be with you. Do not doubt but believe."

"Peace be with you. I have come that you might have life -- full, abundant, and overflowing, do not be afraid, I have overcome the world."

May the peace of Christ dwell with you and yours richly today and always.

Amen

Read more writings of Pastor Jon