Easter 2A: Jesus in the time of COVID (part six million)
When it was evening on that day,
and the doors of the house where the disciples had met
were locked in fear,
Jesus came and stood among them.
If you are looking for good news from the Gospels this morning, this is it. All around the entire world, right now, people are in fear behind closed doors.
And Jesus is with them.
The 7 months pregnant woman who has been exposed to the virus and is waiting, just waiting to see…Jesus is with her.
The woman who is the wage earner for her family, unable to work, unsure whether her job will be there when the stay-at-home order ends. Jesus is with her.
The man with compromised immunity, sheltering alone behind the closed doors of his home in fear of opportunistic infection from this disease. Jesus is with him.
The victim of Covid-19 suffering behind the doors of an intensive care unit, quarantined away from family and friends. Jesus is with her.
The family of that victim, unable to be with her, locked away, sometimes miles away afraid for her life. Jesus is with them.
To all of these people, to each one of us, Jesus is present.
If a shut tomb could not hold him.
An isolation order cannot keep him out
In our gospel reading this morning Jesus comes to the disciples when they are locked behind the doors by fear.
He greets them by saying peace be with you.
And then he holds out his hands.
which are marked by the scars of crucifixion.
which have been transformed by suffering,
and come into this new age
With all the experience of the past.
which say to the disciples
We have been through the worst and overcome it.
The peace which Jesus offers the disciples is not a naive peace.
The peace offered to us by a resurrected Jesus, knows suffering, knows pain, and knows loss.
The peace offered by a resurrected Jesus
to a new and strange world
is a peace that embraces change and promises hope.
The disciples are hiding behind the locked doors of the upper room in fear of the Jewish authorities.
These are the very authorities who hunted down and killed their master, Jesus Christ.
And now they live in a world in which they are criminals by association.
When they are visited by the risen Christ his first message to them is I know your pain. I offer you hope.
This is also the message offered by Jesus Christ when he is in the presence of everyone affected by the COVID 19 virus.
And then the resurrected Jesus says to the disciples
“as I have been sent so I send you.”
It must have been terrifying to hear those words.
To be told that you will have to leave this safe space at some point. You will have to go into the world. And your job is to do ministry like I did. To say “I see your suffering and I offer you hope.”
It is a frightening prospect for us as well. When this phase of lockdown is over, we will have to go into the world. And it will be a very different world.
Before the 1919 flu epidemic people commonly drank beer and water from a communal cup at sporting events and theaters.
Before the 1919 flu epidemic there were no rules in schools or workshops about keeping adults let alone children home when they were sick.
As our world comes back together after this period in the tomb, we will certainly be very different. Marked with scars of our experience. And yet Jesus tells us “as I have been sent so I send you.”
We are called to go back into the world, aware of suffering, wizened by the experience, to say, “I am with you, and I know hope.”
It seems a little overwhelming doesn’t it?
We don’t even know where to start.
And that is certainly what the apostles are feeling in this moment: They don’t even know where to start.
But that is the story of Resurrection.
To have lived through pain, overcome loss, come out of the tomb, and be the body of Christ in the world.
The reason why the image of Christ in the presence of COVID 19 victims is so comforting to us, is because we know that in the body of Christ there is hope, salvation, resurrection, transformation, hope!
We as Christians and believers in the risen Christ, do not have the privilege of losing hope.
But we are not alone.
We believe in a God of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The body of Christ as we live it is communal.
When we act as the body of Christ, we are not alone. We are not one person. We are a collection, a community, a congregation that combines to be the body of Christ.
And, like the apostles in our gospel today, we have not been sent into the world unprepared.
When Jesus says to the apostles that he is sending them to continue his ministry he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them.
It is that same Holy Spirit that works in us now. It inspires us, it empowers us, it supports us, and it guides us when we have no idea where to go.
Now, the consolation is that we are not called to do this right away.
The disciples are visited by Jesus in this way and it’s at least 7 days before Thomas discovers them having done nothing at all.
We are still in a period of lockdown, and our greatest consolation is knowing that Jesus is present with us in this time, offering us his peace.
But this snapshot into the lives of the disciples and the risen Christ, is a view into the future for us. There will be a time when we can go out into the world again. And an ever-present Jesus Christ, a loving God, will be alongside us, and has equipped us for that work.
In the meantime, this morning, as we sit behind locked doors in fear…
May God’s peace be with you.