Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012:Locked Doors

Why was the door shut? The text tells us that the disciples were afraid of the Jews. They had persecuted and killed Jesus. Were they next?

Why do we lock doors? What does that say about the world we are in? We know only too well that there are people who will come and take our things, or perhaps do harm to us. So we lock doors. I hear occasionally of people who come from neighborhoods where people do not lock their doors. Of course, some communities have walls and gates. Treyvon Martin was in a gated community.

And then there are borders around countries. I know a woman who was not allowed to go into England because the organization that invited her to do a workshop had not applied for the rite visa, and she was not allowed to go into England. They put her on the next airplane to New York.

The reason we create security is because we feel unsafe. We cannot trust other poeple, and we use our efforts to build security. Our feeling unsafe, whether justified or not, displays our fear. And we are afraid because we have only to often experienced the cruelty of this humanity we call our family. We become afraid of each other.

There are many ways to be locked in a room.
Sometimes we are stuck in a job because we do not know if we could make a living if we left.
Some are locked in a job because they have a medical condition and they cannot risk changing insurance.
Some people are locked in fear of their neighborhood. They cannot afford to live in an area where the streets are safe, so they must always worry about their kids and children.
Some are locked in relationships which are taxing and difficult.
Sometimes it is as simple as feeling all alone as someone cares for a loved one in medical need.
Sometimes it can be struggling with children who have made bad choices and the heart is broken.
Sometimes we have a disease, or an addiction, or a pattern of behavior and we feel locked in.
Sometimes we lock ourselves in doors of resentment. We blame others, and judge others, and are angry at others for making our life unsatisfactory. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous locked doors of all, because it distracts us from what God can do for us, and it distracts us from our part in our dilemma.

I think many of us are locked in a room spiritually. We fill our minds with images from the consumer culture we live in, and we have come to believe that our happiness is based on having stuff and the leisure to enjoy it. So we want more and more stuff, and we watch more and more media. And the very media which is supposed to provide us leisure increases the pressure by showing us more and more things we need to be happy, to be beautiful, to be sophisticated, to be cool. When we fill our mind with the messages of consumer culture, sometimes we do not even realize that someone else turned the key in our door.

When the disciples were gathered in the room, they had the doors closed, and they had reason to be afriad. Their ideas of God's kingdom was a threat to the Romans who quite frankly liked ruling the world. And because if the Romans felt threatened the Jewish leaders did too. They had some modicum of power because the Romans allowed them to have it, and they needed to keep the nation in line to hold onto their problem.

Christ's teaching and actions declared the kingdom of God, declared love, declared breaking down barriers, declared caring for those who were oppressed caused his death. The Romans needed to put an end to this, and his disciples wondered if it would stop there. Would those authorities come after them too, just to be sure?

The doors were locked. Tight. And they were hiding.

The resurrected Lord was not kept out by those locks. Jesus came right into the midst of their fears, and said "Peace be with you." He showed them his wounds. And the disciples rejoiced.

That rejoicing was not simply the happiness of being reunited with their teacher and Lord; they also rejoiced because in Jesus's greeting they also found forgiveness for abandoning Jesus during his passion.

The next thing he said to the disciples was that just as the father had sent him he now sends us. And then the strange thing happens. I hope you noticed it. This is the first day of the Week. Our story takes place on EASTER day and Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on them. IN John's Gospel the day of ressurection is also the day of Pentecost!

We see that Christ not only sends us out into the world to do his work, he breathes his very spirit, his power, into our lungs. Breath is such a powerful image. Our bodies need food, and they need oxygen. Jesus gives us his body, his blood, and his breath to empower us to do what he asks us to do.

Just as Jesus rose from the dead with his body. So he wants us to use our spirituality as the fuel for our bodies, so that we can walk out the locked doors to do his work.

Also when he breath on us, breath is also the vehicle by which words travel through air. To be nourished by the Spirit means also to be nourished by the wisdom of the apostles. It means encountering and learning from scripture. It means encountering and learning from the great Christian teachers throughout the ages. It means holding a conversation together to discern the way forward, drawing on the gifts of all.

When we fill our lives with these messages from people who seek good, they unlock the doors our consumer individualistic culture closes on us.

We no longer see comfort, or wealth, or beauty, or sophistication as our good above all other. We know that God who is love is our good above all other. And we go into the world to love and support others. Yes, we will encounter resistance, because so many other people are afraid, just as they were afraid of Jesus. But the resurrection teaches us that this is the most important.

We open all the locked doors of our lives.
We design our lives not based on fear but based on faith and hope.
We do not make decisions based on the values of the media, but based on the values of God.
We let the new life of Christ enter into our real life. That is what salvation is.
We allow God to take away our resentments so that we can discover the wonderful things that the Risen Lord can do for us.

We leave our locked doors, and by God's grace, we know the joy of who God meant us to truly be as we minister to a world which longs for it.