Christ our Victory!
1 John 1: 1-2:2 (1 John chapter 1, verse 1 to chapter 2, verse 2)
Sentence: Let us give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Alleluia! Colossians 1:12 (adapted)
Alleluia! God of calm, you bring peace in the midst of distress; still our troubled heart when we struggle to believe, give us the courage to doubt, give us peace in believing. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Tena koutou e te whanau o te Wairua Tapu
It’s been seven days since Easter, one week since the chaos and excitement, one week since the empty tomb and it’s one week since our first “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” It’s one week after the resurrection and the disciples are in the same place they were on Easter night. They are in the same room behind the same locked doors. So if the resurrection is such a big deal, why are the disciples still stuck in the same place? What difference has the empty tomb made? Has it let them see themselves and their world differently? Has it done anything for them? It doesn’t look as if it’s made much difference in their lives. They are in the same house, behind the same locked doors as a week ago. So what’s changed?
I wonder, one week after Easter, what has Christ’s resurrection done for us? Is your life different? Do you see and have you engaged with the world in new ways? What difference has the empty tomb made in your life over the last week?
Initially, I used to hear today’s gospel and be pretty critical of the disciples. Useless fellas. Stuck in the same place. They should have done better than that. After all death has been defeated. “Christ is risen. Alleluia.” Why aren’t their lives different? Why aren’t they already out preaching the gospel?
You see, the questions we have for the disciples, we really should be asking about our own lives. Has my life changed? Or, why isn’t my life different after Easter? Why am I still stuck in the same place? I should be doing better, doing more. I should be living the resurrection better, more powerfully and more authentically, than what I am. After all, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.”
However, I’ve begun to hear today’s gospel a bit differently: Christ’s resurrection is a big deal; that’s for sure! The empty tomb is certainly a life changing event and the resurrection does make a difference in our lives. But resurrection also takes time. It is not a one time event. It’s something that we grow into. It’s a process. It’s a way of being and a life to be lived out. By the grace of God we evolve into resurrected people through our relationships and the circumstances of our lives. Every day we are stepping into the resurrected life. It’s not always easy and some days are really tough.
I wonder if we sometimes come to Easter Sunday and the empty tomb expecting to wake up on Monday to a whole new life and world. I’m guessing that you all awoke on Easter Monday to the same life and the same world as you did on Good Friday. I did. It’s not because the resurrection failed or because Jesus didn’t fix up everything in our lives. It’s because understanding and knowing takes time. Maybe we need to let go of the fact of the empty tomb and start claiming the story of resurrection.
You see, there’s a difference between facts and story. Facts are one dimensional, stories are multidimensional. Facts inform the mind, stories touch the heart. Facts transmit information, stories transform lives. The empty tomb is a fact. Resurrection is a story. Maybe we need to begin to understand resurrection as the story of our life instead of a snapshot of Christ’s life. The fact of the empty tomb is not the story of the resurrection. The facts of Jesus’ life are not the story of Jesus. The facts of your life and my life are not the story of our lives.
The facts are just the starting point for the story. The fact of the empty tomb is the starting point for the resurrection story. Whatever facts you woke up to on Easter Monday are simply the starting point for your story of resurrection. Too often, however, we take the facts as the entire story. Isn’t that what we’ve done with Thomas?
What facts come to mind when you hear his name? He was a doubter. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” The fact that Thomas doubted maybe the only fact that comes to mind. It is so common to hear that we call him Doubting Thomas. What if that fact, however, is just the starting point for his resurrection? What if it is not the whole story? What if where we start is less important than where we go and where we end up?
Do you know the end of Thomas’ story? Do you know where he died? He died in India. He was the apostle to the people of India. He brought the gospel of Christ to India. He died a martyr. That doesn’t sound much like a doubter, does it? It sounds like someone who grew and changed, someone for whom the resurrection of Christ was real, someone for whom the empty tomb made a difference. It just took a little time, as it does for most or maybe all of us.
We know the Doubting Thomas but let’s not forget the Confessing Thomas. He’s in today’s gospel as well. “My Lord and my God!” With those words Thomas has recognised and named a new relationship, a new worldview, a new way of being. Somewhere between Doubting Thomas and the Confessing Thomas is the story of resurrection in Thomas’ life.
Everything about Thomas, the fact of his disbelief, is just Thomas’ starting place, nothing more and nothing less. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s a starting place. And we all have our starting places. What is your starting place? What are the facts of your life today? The starting place for the story of our resurrection is whatever is. Whatever your life is today, whatever your circumstances are, that’s the starting point for your story of resurrection.
So if you’re dealing with deep loneliness, sorrow, regret and loss, that’s your starting point. That’s the room which Christ enters. If you are locked in a house of fear, confusion, or darkness, that’s your starting point and the place in which Jesus stands. If illness, old age, disability, or uncertainty are facts of your life, that’s your starting point and the place in which Jesus shows up. If you feel lost, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed, that’s your starting point and the house in which Jesus enters. If joy, gratitude, and celebration are the facts of your life today, that’s the starting point for your story of resurrection. The great tragedy is not that the disciples are in the same house behind the same locked doors. That’s just their starting place. The great tragedy will be if the disciples refuse to unlock the doors, refuse to open the doors, and refuse to get out the house.
What are the doors that are locked in your life? What are the things that have kept you stuck in the same place? I’ll say it again, that’s just the starting place. Don’t judge it as good or bad, right or wrong. It’s just where you are and it’s the place Christ shows up. It happened twice in today’s gospel. Both times the disciples are in the same house behind the same locked doors and Jesus shows up. He stands in the midst of them. The walls and the locked doors of their house could not keep Jesus out. And the walls and locked doors of your house will not keep him out either.
You see, Jesus steps into the midst of our house, through the locked doors, and breathes peace and life into us. He breathes peace and hope into us. He breathes peace and courage into us. He breathes peace and strength into us. And that breath of peace is the key that unlocks the door. So take a deep breath, take it all in, let it fill and enliven you. Let it give you the hope, courage, and strength to unlock and open the doors of your life, and then get out of the house.
So open the doors to the story of your resurrection and get out of the house. Amen
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa
Photo: 11th April 2021