Date April 23, 2017 or 1997 or 2006
In the Gospel of John we hear a dramatic story. It was the first day of the week. The first day, a powerful symbol of a brand new beginning. It was the very first day the church began its mission. It was the establishment of a brand new house, a house made of living stones. It is the same new beginning that occurs over and over as we are Baptized and when we become transformed by the power and spirit of Jesus Christ.
The disciples were discouraged, defeated, fearful, afraid and weak. They had locked the doors to the place where they were. Someone had taken the body of the Lord and they did not know where they had put him. During this moment of weakness, something very amazing, dramatic and remarkable happened. The Lord came and stood in their midst. “Peace be with you”. At the appearance of the Lord they literally exploded with joy.
Then he breathed on them. Receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love of God and neighbor, the spirit of forgiveness. The spirit of Jesus Christ who died on the cross, once for all sinners. Before they could digest his appearance immediately followed the commissioning. As the Father has sent me so I send you. The whole course of human history was changed.
We are gathered here together in the house the Lord has built, as testimony to this change. The resurrection continues to occur here and now in Fayetteville Georgia in April 1997. Oh how many lives have been transformed throughout these many ages the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Think again for a moment about the place the disciples had retreated to. They were hiding in a house within a house. They had withdrawn into a place and within that place they had further withdrew into themselves.
John Michael Talbot composed a song called “My House”. It is a song which symbolically tells the story of how we each hide within our house. Our house. The house where we shelter ourselves so that no one can peer in and see who we really are. For we are often like the disciples a fearful and doubtful people. It is in the very darkness of our house, that we can encounter our beloved, the one who releases us from our greatest fears and doubts enabling us to journey outside our house where we can bring his love and peace to the people of this world.
Thomas was missing the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples. When the other disciples told Thomas about Jesus, he spoke as a man of courage and ignorance. Thomas was a stubborn seeker of manifest credentials.
Thomas symbolizes for us our human instinct to hide beneath a courageous exterior, the shell of a house, while below the surface we manifest both doubt and fear which challenge our faith.
A week later, despite the locked doors. One week later we find them again behind locked doors. These are the same disciples who had rejoiced only a week before. This message should give us great hope and joy. Here we have the first eye witnesses’. Our ancestors in faith, who had already seen the risen Lord, and still they where locked behind closed doors. Like these disciples, we too can expect weak moments. There is hope for you and me. Again Jesus began “Peace be with you”.
Then Jesus confronted the doubting Thomas in us all by calling Thomas from unbelief to belief. Next we hear the message that should be music to our ears. “Blessed are they who have not seen but believed”. This message is for you and I so that through this faith we may be transformed and have life everlasting in his name.
Jesus can penetrate any structure within which we hide:
No matter the size of the house or the sophistication of our culture, Jesus can penetrate any structure or barrier we can create. When we find ourselves retreating into the darkness of our house, is when the Gospel of John tells us Jesus will be there with us in the dark. No matter the depth of the fear, the denseness of the hiding place, or the inclination to doubt, Jesus will stand before us, if only we open our hearts to see his presence. “Peace be with you”. The peace that only God can give.
A peace we acquire when we freely turn control of our house, over to him and with Him begin to forgive those who have sinned against us.
With Baptism into the church we are forgiven, and within the traditional sacrament of forgiveness we are forgiven, and we the church continue to preach the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. It is in the forgiveness of sins that the Lord creates for us a divine indwelling. A place of peace with our God and our neighbor. Forgiveness leads to a oneness of spirit and unity.
We have gathered together in this place, we call the house of the Lord. As we come to the altar, let us offer up and shed our individual house to the Lord, so that the one spirit will dwell within this community of believers, touching and guiding us with his spirit in faith. Then when we leave this place, we can go out in joy to love one another and our neighbors with the same mind and spirit of Jesus Christ.