The seven Sundays between Easter and Pentecost are not referred to as the Sundays after Easter, but rather they are called the Sundays of Easter. It is a time when we continue to reflect on resurrection life. It is a time of joy and wonder. But for the early apostles, it was a time of fear, confusion and sadness. And sometimes for us, it’s hard to live into resurrection life when our fears have created doors for us to hide behind.
But having fear or doubt doesn’t make us bad Christians. It’s actually part of our daily living. While the resurrection turned the world upside down, we live in a right-side-up reality. So how do we find resurrection life around us?
According to John’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t walk in and begin to argue with Thomas, instead he seeks Thomas out. Somehow, he knew the doubt that Thomas had, and he meets him in that place of doubt…behind closed doors. And this is part of the Good News that we are to take away from the Gospel story…Jesus meets us in our doubt. While all our questions may not be answered in ways that we expect or desire, Jesus meets us in the midst of those questions, behind the closed doors that we have created, with love.
One of the things I’ve often wondered about is if Thomas recognized Jesus. Mary Magdalene didn’t seem to, until her name was called. So I assume Thomas didn’t either until he was invited to touch him. What that tells me is that sometimes “seeing” isn’t necessarily believing…sometimes in order to recognize Jesus in our midst, we have to touch and listen.
And here’s the second part of the Good News from the Gospel story. Sometimes we can’t recognize Jesus, or resurrection life, until we listen to people’s stories. Sometimes we can’t recognize Jesus, or resurrection life, until we’ve touched a broken body. That somehow when we touch and listen, we are able to see. Henri Nouwen has written about Jesus as the wounded healer. That Jesus is among those who are broken, alone, afraid, marginalized, doubting, because he too was broken, alone, afraid, marginalized and doubting. Jesus is the wounded healer who comes to us in love.
So how do we recognize Jesus when he comes to us in our doubt? Well, according to the gospel, Jesus comes in peace. Jesus doesn’t come arguing with us or blaming us for our guilt, but comes to offer peace to our worried hearts.
Jesus comes to us in the words of comfort from a friend or neighbor. Jesus comes to us with empty hands and a story to tell. Jesus comes as a warm embrace.
One of my favorite songs is “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers. Some of the lyrics read:
Clapped in church on Sunday morning
Played a tambourine so well
Soothed a local unwed mother
Used to ache sometimes and swell
Used to hand me piece of candy
Picked me up each time I fell
Boy, they really came in handy
She'd say, "Matty don' you whip that boy
What you want to spank him for?
He didn't drop no apple core"
But I don't have Grandma anymore
If I get to Heaven I'll look for
Maybe for Bill Withers, Grandma’s hands were the hands of Jesus…bringing peace, love, relief and joy to a small corner of the world which had found itself locked behind closed doors.
Jesus appears again and again to us…
So I invite you to consider what’s keeping you locked behind closed doors, and when you might have encountered the resurrected Jesus.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.