I will admit that on this Monday, the day after Easter, my thoughts are not completely formed yet as I consider this second appearance of Jesus to the disciples behind those locked doors. So what I offer now are first thoughts only and I hope that if you also find yourself preaching next Sunday that these might also be a start for you.
It is no surprise, I suppose, that Thomas is at the center of my thoughts today for he does take center stage in the story before us now. And I can’t help but wonder where Thomas had gotten himself off to that he was not with the other disciples that week before. I mean, maybe he was just busy, occupied with other things. Or maybe he was doing what we all do sometimes:
- Maybe he had retreated to a place by himself.
- Maybe he needed the quiet away from the energy and the noise anxiety of the others to try to assimilate all that had happened.
- Maybe Thomas was a ‘private griever.’
- Or maybe what could have only been a traumatic experience for him (and for the rest) pushed him to a place of needing to disconnect.
We do not know any of this, of course, for these details are entirely unimportant to John and the message he is conveying here.
And yet, I find myself landing there, realizing perhaps in a way I never have before the importance of being ‘together in one place’ for people of faith.
I mean, how could one not after this long, last hard year of speaking words of hope and promise into a blank camera lens? How could one not now realize the gift and wonder of hearing other voices buoying you up as faith is affirmed, as praises and lament are sung, as heartfelt prayers are raised?
Oh, it’s not as though the faith of God’s people has simply dissipated this last year, but it hasn’t always been easy, has it, to hold on to and lift up what matters most when we have not been able to be ‘all together in one place.’ For this is a journey shared and we need each other, it seems to me:
- to affirm,
- to share words of peace and forgiveness and hope,
- to challenge and encourage each other on the way,
- to lend our own voices in song when those of others are choked by fear, by grief, yes by disbelief.
And yes, while it so so that Jesus does make his living self known when we are alone and often then, too. But today we hear that Jesus for sure comes in community. To the disciples together in one place. To you and to me as well.
And so it is I wonder now who and how we shall be as restrictions lift and locked doors are flung open and we are able to be ‘all together in one place once more.’
For this is so.
There are surely those who have been more engaged than others in these last many months. Indeed, some in their grief, perhaps their trauma, have chosen to be ‘alone’ in ways more than ‘social distancing’ alone would have required. And so I wonder now if we will have the wisdom, the compassion of the disciples who kept the door open for Thomas. Telling him what they had seen and heard. And making room for him when he was ready to be in their midst again.
I wonder what that will look like for all of us, how it is that we might do the same.
- How might we set aside or receive healing for the wounds of these last many months, realizing that yes, Jesus comes through all kinds of locked doors, but that today he especially shows he will come when we are together?
- Oh, how might we be called to set aside or to address or to work through that which has driven us even further apart than we ever needed to be, and with the extraordinary love the other disciples showed Thomas, simply welcome back those who have been away, for whatever reason?
- Indeed, how might we live out the peace that Jesus gives for the sake of our communities of faith, the communities we are called to love and serve, and for our own sakes as well?
Again, these are just first thoughts on this Monday after Easter. If they turn out to be gift to you in any way, I will be more than grateful.
May God bless you as you seek to share the good news with those God puts in your path in the coming days, particularly as you seek to share the peace that Jesus first spoke to the disciples, that Jesus speaks to you.