Hope for this Time - Reflections 4-16-20

Texts for the Second Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2020

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

I’ve been pondering what to say about resurrection in this COVID19 moment in time.  As I say in the Apostles’ Creed most Sundays, I believe in Jesus Christ ...who was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again. And I believe that the resurrection is about new life in the here and now not just at the end of all time, or end of my time. In the resurrection, death was conquered. 

But… then, there is death stalking so many around the world. And so many of us are locked away to keep death from taking more, including myself and those I love, not to mention all the medical and support people who are facing it head-on each day.

Last week’s Easter Gospel says “while it was still dark” Mary came to the garden. And she found the tomb empty. Put those thoughts together: while it was still dark, the tomb was emptyIt was still dark.  It didn’t matter. The tomb was empty. I don’t have to feel it or see it. I can be in this COVID darkness and say “Christ is risen”. Both at the same time. The realization of the "both/and" brings hope.

In this week’s Gospel, we find 10 of Jesus’ disciples locked away in the darkness of grief, uncertainty, and fear. They had watched a barbaric execution of the one in whom they had hoped. They also knew that there was a good chance that the Romans would round them up and kill them too for following this “King of the Jews”. They were afraid and the door was locked. It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of house where the disciples had met were locked, because of fear...

Does that sound familiar? We are collectively grieving “normal”. Grief disorients us. Anxiety moves in. The death from this virus sounds barbaric. We don’t want that for a loved one or ourselves or anyone we know. We are asked to stay in to stop the spread of this illness. We keep others out because they might bring the unwanted virus into our home. And once we are "let out" before a vaccine is developed we will still be suspicious, not knowing who may asymptomatic and not know it. Maybe I should just go back home and stay there. And lock the door.

Into this fear and uncertainty and locked door, the risen Jesus appears.  The tomb is empty. We didn't anticipate it, we didn't even believe Mary who told us so. The door is locked and “Christ is risen.” Both at the same time. The realization of the "both/and" brings hope.

Notice Jesus’ first word is “Peace”. What a blessing for those disciples who had been consumed by anxiety.  He shows them his flesh which give witness to his suffering and death. This is incarnation, God in flesh. God knows, bears the scars of suffering. God gets it. God gets that being human means fear, confusion, pain, loss. 

That word "Peace"? It's for us too. And it shimmers with the hope of our God who gets it, and who is with us in it.

Then Jesus, who says “Peace” again, breathes on those gathered disciples and fills them with God’s Spirit. And leaves. Thomas comes in, hears their tale, and is skeptical. He does not believe because he needs to see for himself. The next week the all the disciples are again in that locked room. Once again Jesus appears and says “Peace”. Thomas touches that wounded flesh and believes.

Then Jesus says this “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 

Even while we are in the dark and behind locked doors, the tomb is empty.  We don’t have to see it or feel it. We receive it. Christ is risen indeed. 

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245