This is the sermon the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters preached at the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s online worship service for the Second Sunday of Easter.
April 19, 2020 Easter 2, Year A
May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen
Last week we celebrated the marvelous mystery of Easter. Christ is risen! We say our Alleluias again! And we rejoice!
We’ve made it through the long, sometimes difficult journey of Lent. And, of course, this year, Lent seemed longer and more difficult than any in modern memory.
But…Easter arrived. And…for a brief moment in time, we suspended our doubts. We stopped trying to make all the pieces fit together…and we allowed ourselves to be lifted into the chorus of generations who sing “He is risen!”
We always look forward to Easter. We anticipate the joy and relief of having made it through the wilderness that’s Lent.
I’ve seen a post on social media that this is the “Lentiest Lent I’ve ever Lented.” A grammatically strange phrase…but I suspect we get the meaning. We’ve sacrificed and given up more than we could’ve imagined when we entered into this Lent on that Ash Wednesday in February…just a couple of months ago.
Yet, here we are. We made it to Easter! We rejoiced! We lived the assurance of God’s promise once again. Even this quarantine and virus can’t stop us from receiving God’s promise.
Some of us watched this year’s Easter services in our pajamas. Some of us tried to recreate this strange Easter as closely as possible to what we normally do. And some of us relaxed into an Easter with few expectations.
We yearned to rejoice…to connect with our Christian siblings around the world…to experience something that gave us hope for the future.
Now we’re starting the second week of the Easter season. And we’re still in quarantine. We’re still at risk. We’re still suffering in all kinds of ways.
What’s going to happen next? How long will this threat last? How much more pain and loss will we have to endure?
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, it seems likely that the disciples are asking those same questions. This is Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples after the resurrection.
They’re scared and hiding out. They’ve locked themselves in a room. They’ve witnessed what just happened to Jesus, their Lord. They know that the religious leaders and the Roman rulers could do the same thing to them just for being associated with Jesus.
Thankfully, Jesus knows God’s children so well! He knows that they’re scared and confused. So, Jesus comes to them. He stands among them.
He doesn’t scold them for their fear or doubt. He knows their hearts and what they’re going through. He knows they’re in real danger. And…Jesus reassures them. He comforts them. He meets them where they are.
Jesus greets them with peace: “Peace be with you.” Their teacher, their Lord, their dear friend gives them peace. He shows them the evidence they need to calm their doubts.
Then, he again gives them peace. What a beautiful gift after all the turmoil and chaos they experienced that last week. They surely need peace.
And although Jesus knows they’re afraid…he also knows they have work to do. They can’t hide out forever. God sent Jesus to show them the way of the Kingdom. Now that they have the gift of peace, they can hear the rest of his message and start to understand their mission.
Their mission is to bring the message of God’s love to everyone, to take care of God’s people. But it’s not easy work. Sometimes it’s hard, dangerous, heart-breaking work.
And…and it’s also exhilarating, joyous, and soul-feeding work. The disciples have a steep road ahead…but they now carry Jesus’ peace with them.
Then Jesus brings them a second gift, the Holy Spirit. He knows that they also need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help them figure out how to move forward.
The scripture tells us that not all the disciples are present on this night. In particular, Thomas doesn’t get to see Jesus at this first appearance.
The other disciples tell him about Jesus, and he wants to see for himself. He wants to see Jesus just like the others have all gotten to see him.
Then…fast forward a week to find the disciples gathered again. This time Thomas is there. And Jesus comes to them again.
What a gift?! In the midst of so much fear and grief and confusion. Jesus comes to them. And the first thing he shares with them again is…peace. “Peace be with you.”
Simple words, but so powerful. These words have no less power today than they did 2000 plus years ago. Jesus isn’t just greeting his friends in the ancient world. Jesus’ words transcend time and space. They greet us today.
“Peace be with you.” Take a moment. Breathe in these words. Let them fill you…fill your whole being.
Even when we don’t “feel” peaceful, Jesus peace is with us…it’s in us…sometimes it may be hard to access. But it’s there.
It’s there in the joyful times…it’s there in the sad times…it’s there in the times filled with fear and worry.
“Peace be with you.” Breathe in those words again. Then breathe them out. Let these words of peace flow out into the world.
This is peace of Christ. Jesus’ good and loving gift. This peace gives the followers of Jesus, then and now, the strength and courage to love and serve him…to carry the Good News of God’s love to everyone…to every creature in Creation.
This is the peace we share with each other each time we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. These are the words that connect us. These are the words that carry Jesus’ reassurance and comfort…the words that give us strength. And we share Christ’s peace with others.
And, although we haven’t just experienced the horror and gruesome events of the death and crucifixion of Jesus, we’re living in uniquely difficult and uncertain times. We’re in a state of heightened vigilance.
We wonder: “how, as Christians, can we live out Christ’s message in the midst of this global pandemic?” Then we remember that the disciples’ gifts are ours, too. Jesus has bestowed this gift of peace upon us, just as surely as he did the disciples.
As frightening and unpredictable as the news is from day to day, there are also remarkable stories of courage and love. People are using whatever resources they have to help others.
It may be sewing masks. It may be making sidewalk messages of hope. It may be delivering groceries to someone who can’t get out. It may be singing songs to lift people’s spirits. It may be dance parties to help people escape their fear for just a few minutes.
In the midst of so much pain and suffering, we also have tremendous opportunities to share God’s love…to help bring God’s healing to a hurting world.
And we can do it! It doesn’t have to be a big gesture. If you can make the big gesture, do it! If you can’t, do what you can where you are. We meet people where they are with what we have.
That’s all God asks of us. And Jesus’ gift of peace gives us the strength and courage to share this Good News! The best news! We are loved beyond imagination! And where love lives, so does hope!