“Talking Back to Our Fears” – Sermon by Rev. Brian Combs, 4/19/17

After the execution of Jesus, the disciples figured they would be next. So they scurried into an upper room where they extinguished the candles and pulled the curtains and locked the door to hide in the dark and hold their breath. But then they were found out. Not by the authorities, but by the One who had already promised that he would suffer, die and be raised. Even though they were expecting their own Good Friday, what the disciples got instead was Easter.

What do we learn about resurrection faith?

John 20:19-31 When it was evening on 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 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.

Congregational Responses:
Good News meets each person where they are in the way they need.
It still comes with the marks of death.
It can show up anywhere and anytime.
Fear, not doubt, is the opposite of faith.

I had a chance to visit the Holy Land. After Galilee and Jericho, we made our way to Jerusalem where one of our last stops in the city was the Cenacle, which translates as the “Upper Room.” Tradition teaches that this is the spot where the Last Supper took place and where the disciples returned to hide after the crucifixion. As I stood there in that vault, listening to the historian, watching pilgrims take pictures and tourists check their itineraries, I remember thinking this place of holy ground, where Jesus literally broke bread and taught his disciples, had become nothing more than a stop along the way of religious attractions. The Cenacle was the first building of Christianity to shutter its doors, a cautionary tale that when congregants huddle behind walls and secure the deadbolt, they are reduced to museum keepers content to stay put, just dusting off relics in the Jesus Society rather than being out and alive to His ministry in the world.

What we learn about resurrection is that it can’t be experienced if you’re scared. After love, fear is arguably the most motivating of all human emotions. It can lead institutional religion to shout “Crucify Him” and sell out its own Savior for thirty pieces of silver. It can lead a threatened government to convict an innocent man and sentence him to death on a tree. It can lead a group of disciples to abandon everything they had given their lives for mere days after the stone had been rolled away.
Peter Gomes was right when he said, “Fear, not sin, is the great curse. Every one of us is a hostage to fear. [But] Freedom from fear is the achievement of the resurrection- not freedom from death but freedom from fear.”

For 2000 years now, despite how practiced we’ve become at spiritual paralysis, the risen Lord comes to stand in between us and what makes us tremble to say, “Peace be with you,” “Peace be with you.” While fear may have the first word, it never has the final word. The power of resurrection is the power to talk back to our fears with the movement of our lives.

But I’m terrified of the morning news, the constant headlines of decay and death. Get up from where you’re hiding and go. Resurrection is waiting on the other side.

But I’m terrified of being loved without condition. Get up from where you’re hiding and go. Resurrection is waiting on the other side.

But I’m terrified of sobriety because it means feeling my deepest feelings. Get up from where you’re hiding and go. Resurrection is waiting on the other side.

But I’m terrified of living accountable to God’s intention because I will become unrecognizable. Get up from where you’re hiding and go. Resurrection is waiting on the other side.

But I’m terrified that the promise of new life is actually true because then anything and everything is possible. Get up from where you’re hiding and go. Resurrection is waiting on the other side.

Although the disciples planned to huddle in their shuttered Church museum forever, Jesus came and exhaled on their hiding place and blew it all wide open, spilling them out onto the streets of Easter. And now it’s our turn, to either stay afraid or to receive the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, and unlock the door.

Speak Your Mind

*