Homily Easter 2

19th April 2020 Easter 2 Reading: John 20:19-end

The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of the Jews………………….

A degree of resonance in those words, I think!

Like those disciples we are, to a greater or lesser extent, living in fear, and the future is uncertain.  The doors of our houses may not be locked, but we are locked down, our freedom curtailed, our movements restricted.

But look! Jesus came and stood among them and said “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 on any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus stands amongst us, too; is as present in our lives now, as he has ever been.  Indeed, that longing for hope, longing for certainty, longing for answers, may help us to notice him, be more receptive to his voice, more generous in sharing his love.

I have spoken to lots of people who’ve said that many of the telephone conversations they are having, are ones they’ve been meaning to have but never got around to making the phone call; that speaking to someone is so much more real than sending a text or an email; that we are remembering people who we haven’t had time for, and are picking up and renewing relationships that had fallen by the wayside in all the busyness of life.

Trapped as we are, we have begun to re-evaluate what matters most to us, and what, in reality, we can do without – and they are often things that had seemed utterly crucial before.

What we are discovering is the true value of relationships, the importance of sustaining them, the significance and merit of facing difficulties in solidarity with others - and with a unity of purpose.

Thomas needed to discover that, too! 

We don’t know why he wasn’t with the other disciples in that upper room. 

Was it because he was such an all or nothing sort of person – his words as recorded in the Bible, speak of a man seeking answers, needing clarity and when he has it, acting decisively and resolutely – listening to Jesus arguments for going back to Judea yes, if you really want to go, we’ll die with you Jesus if you go to Lazarus;  or the clarity he seeks as to where Jesus is going: How can we know the way to your Father’s house, we don’t know where it is

He’d weighed up the pros and cons, made a wholehearted decision, and followed Jesus to Jerusalem.  And now look what’s happened.

He had thrown in his lot with Jesus, and now it had been thrown back at him. His grief was perhaps so wholehearted that he didn’t want to look beyond it.  Just as he was utterly consumed by his commitment to Jesus, so now he was utterly and resolutely consumed by disappointment.

Luckily for Thomas, his friends wouldn’t let him shut them out.  They told him about Jesus’ appearance, and a little shaft of light pierced Thomas’s gloom.  Even in his resolute gloom, he desperately wanted what they were saying to be true.

And that, perhaps, is the difference between Thomas’s doubts, and those of the Scribes and Pharisees – he wanted Jesus to be who he claimed to be, they certainly didn’t.  He wanted to live in a world of faith, hope and love.  They wanted to live in a world governed by themselves, wanted power and influence, feared the light of God’s truth.

So they turned their backs.

Thomas? Well, Thomas went to the upper room, encouraged by the faith of his friends, hoping against hope, and God did not let him down.

There is nothing wrong with doubt: it’s almost integral to faith – but the sort of doubt which enables flourishing rather than stunting, is always hopeful, never fearful, always open to God’s possibilities, God’s future. 

So we have to ask ourselves: do we want Jesus to be who he said he was? 

Do we want to live in a world of faith, hope and love?   

Because, if we do, Jesus won’t disappoint us.

The doors of our churches are locked, and the buildings empty.  The tomb on that Easter morning 2000 years ago was empty, too, but it certainly wasn’t empty because God had deserted the world. 

Quite the reverse – as Thomas discovered in that upper room, it was empty because the world itself was now

shot through with the possibility of new life,

full of promise,

full of unimaginable hope,

and the unquenchable power of love.