Closed doors, closed hearts

SERMON  Closed doors, closed hearts

SCRIPTURE  JOHN 20:19-21

A week ago we celebrated the resurrection. There comes a time, however, when we must live the resurrection. That is not always easy. There are days when we prefer to just stay in bed, pull the covers over our head, and close out the world. Some days it seems easier and safer to lock the doors of our house and avoid the circumstances and people of our lives. Some times we just want to run away, hide, and not deal with the reality of our lives.

Every time, however, we shut the doors of our life, our mind, or our heart we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. That’s what has happened to the disciples in today’s gospel. It is Easter evening, the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, the day they saw the empty tomb, the day Mary Magdalene announced, “I have seen the Lord.” The disciples are gathered in the house, the doors are locked with fear. A week later they are in the same place. It is the same house, the same walls, the same closed doors, the same locks. Nothing much has changed.

Jesus’ tomb is open and empty but the disciples’ house is closed and the doors locked tight. The house has become their tomb. Jesus is on the loose and the disciples are bound in fear. The disciples have separated themselves and their lives from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Their doors of faith have been closed. They have shut their eyes to the reality that life is now different. They have locked out Mary Magdalene’s words of faith, hope, and love. They left the empty tomb of Jesus and entered their own tombs of fear, doubt, and blindness. The locked doors have become the great stone sealing their tomb. They have locked themselves in. The doors of our tombs are always locked from the inside. All this, and it has been only one week.

I wonder, one week after Easter, is our life different? Where are we living? In the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors. How is our life different after Easter? And if it isn’t what are the locked doors of our life, our heart, our mind?

When St. John describes the house, the doors, the locks he is speaking about more than a physical house with walls, doors on hinges, and deadbolts. He is describing the interior condition of the disciples. The locked places of our lives are always more about what is going on inside of us than around us.

What are the closed places of your life? What keeps you in the tomb? Maybe, like the disciples, it is fear. Maybe it is questions, disbelief, or the conditions we place on our faith. Perhaps it is sorrow and loss. Maybe the wounds are so deep it does not seem worth the risk to step outside. For others it may be anger and resentment. Some seem unable or unwilling to open up to new ideas, possibilities, and change.

Jesus is always entering the locked places of our lives. He comes eastering in us. Unexpected, uninvited, and sometimes even unwanted he steps into our closed lives, closed, hearts, closed minds. Standing among us he offers peace and breathes new life into us. He doesn’t open the door for us but he gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being. This is happening all the time.

Jesus still does what Jesus does. He makes his presence known among us. He speaks to us. He changes us. It is the same Jesus who conquered death – he also rules time and space and reality. He does what he wants. He goes where he wants, when he wants.

And he speaks. His first words to those huddled and fearful men who should have known better were not, “you should all know better!” He doesn’t scold them or cajole them. He doesn’t lay a guilt trip on them for deserting him at Gethsemane. Nor does he give them a pep talk about how it’ll all be ok. He gives them his peace.

He’s not just saying peaceful words. These are words which do something. Jesus words do what they say. When he commands, when he forgives, when he promises – it happens. So these words of peace are not just a kind wish for them, but an extension of his peace. He puts his peace upon them. Just as he does for us.

There’s that part of our service, right after the Words of Institution, in which the pastor says, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always”. And most of us well-trained Lutherans want to say right back, “and also with you”. AH! But listen and look carefully. This is not a holy howdy. This is not a greeting from the pastor, but this is the Peace of the Lord himself. This is the peace of Jesus given in his Body and Blood we are about to receive. This is why the proper response at that time is, “Amen,”

But Jesus goes on. He brings even more than just peace. He brings proof of who he is – his pierced hands and side – which he would show even to a skeptical Thomas a week later.

He breathes on them. Now you probably wouldn’t appreciate your pastor, or anyone, breathing on you. But this is the glorified Jesus, after all. We are instantly reminded of the first time God breathed – it was to bring life to the body of Adam he had formed from the clay. Then there was Elijah’s vision in the Valley of Dry Bones – prophesying to the breath – the breath of God which brought life to the lifeless bones of Israel. Now Jesus breathes, and he too brings life.

He who has come back from death, the Living One, he breathes his life upon his people. He breathes his Spirit on them – and on us, his holy church. His resurrection, his life, is our only source of life. His breath is our breath. His Spirit is ours. Yes, the word for spirit is the same as the word for wind or breath. All this is ours in Christ.

And along with that Spirit, that Life, that breath, comes forgiveness. He gives his apostles the greatest authority, and the apostolic ministry still exercises it. The power to forgive sins. Your sins. Mine. Far greater than the power to do miracles, or to heal, or even to create. The power to forgive sins is the power to give life. And he gives it to his church, for the benefit of his people.

When we hear those words of blessing and benediction, “Peace be with you”, Christ is actually giving his peace. When we hear those words, “Your sins are forgiven” he is actually giving his forgiveness. And when he says, “This is my body and blood” it really is too – also for your forgiveness and life.

We don’t see him standing here this morning, but as he said to Thomas, even more blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet believe. We don’t see him in the bread and wine, but we do, by faith. We don’t touch his resurrected body, but we receive it in our mouths, by faith.

Even when we are fearful, the risen Jesus still give us his gifts. And so, we are blessed. And so we are at peace. And so we have life, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Regardless of the circumstances Jesus shows up bringing peace, offering peace, embodying peace. Regardless of the circumstances Jesus shows up bringing life, offering life, embodying life. Life and peace are resurrection reality. They do not necessarily change the circumstances of our life and world. Tornados will still form, the hungry still need to be fed, and loved ones will die. The life and peace of Jesus’ resurrection enable us to meet and live through those circumstances. His gives us his peace, his breath, his life, and then sends us out. We are free to unlock the doors of our lives and step outside into his life.

This message by Rev Tom Chryst and Fr. Michael K. Marsh is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project