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The Reverend Kathleen Killian

April 11, 2021

Easter 2B 2021

John 20:19-31

Peace be with You 

It was evening on that day—the same day that Mary Magdalene had been to Jesus's  tomb in the half-light of early dawn—only to find it empty; the same day that strangely bright men—they must have been angels—told her that Jesus had risen from the dead; the same day that she ran to tell the other disciples the unbelievable news—Jesus is alive!—the same day that unbelievable news was indeed not believed. And it was the same day that there were other reports of seeing Jesus alive. Was he? 

And so it was on that very same, and very long, first day of the week when evening had finally fallen, that the disciples found themselves huddled together behind locked doors in great  fear and confusion. But this is when Jesus comes and stands among them—in the midst of their lockdown—a gentle wind blowing through the stale air of the shut-tight room. Jesus meets his disciples where they are. 

Gathered together here today, Jesus also meets us where we are. Though we’re not huddled together behind locked doors or afraid for our lives, I would imagine that Easter morning is nearly out of sight in our rear view mirrors because—Alleluia! Christ is risen!—but fill in the blank: life goes on, as only it can. Perhaps some of us are yet hidden behind the closed doors of disappointed or tired hearts. Perhaps this “Low Sunday,” as it’s often called because of the drop in attendance after Easter is also “low,” because we are: where is resurrection in our lives? Some if not many of our problems and worries are not much changed from a week ago. But maybe this is why we always hear this same gospel on the second Sunday of Easter, and its story about doubts and fear, the wounds of Jesus, his breath and his peace. 

“Resurrection” or rebirth, renewal, restoration and transformation is rarely instantaneous. Mostly we have to wait for it. Even Jesus had to wait three days for new life yet buried to emerge. This is perhaps why the earliest Christians referred to their new faith as “the Way,” for to follow Jesus is to walk with him on an often long and winding road. As I have found in my own life, and in working with others, the deepest and most lasting healing often comes about at turtle speed: slow and steady wins the day. 

When the risen Jesus stands among his disciples and shows them his wounds, he’s not offering them quick proof or easy evidence; for as Jesus goes on to say: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. Jesus reveals his wounds to us so that we may recognize him in our shared humanity and human struggle. Jesus’s wounds are still visible in the millions who have suffered or died from Covid, and in those struggling to breathe. We recognize Jesus in the victims of gun violence, his wounds bleeding anew. He bears the scars of the abused, downtrodden, outcast, poor and homeless. 

In writing of Jesus’s wounds, Julian of Norwich sees them as large enough for all mankind to rest in peace and love. When I served as a hospital chaplain, I was struck by how many people wanted to show me their wounds, lifting up their bedclothes and bedsheets to reveal what was often bloody, ugly, and painful. Look, a patient would say, so vulnerable and trusting that I would. My seeing seemed to be a kind of reassurance that their scars and suffering were not meaningless but part of the road map of their journey, which was taking them somewhere, and not nowhere. 

Look, says Jesus. The risen life of Christ doesn’t eradicate our old life, negate past injury, or refuse to see things as they are; rather, by his wounds, and our own, we are healed. But I would imagine too that we all might agree that it’s not unreasonable to reason, or to question and doubt, like Thomas in our gospel. And so, one week later Jesus meets Thomas where he is, standing strong in reasonable doubt: Put your finger here and see my hands. Look, he says, reach out your hand and put it in my side. Though the gospel is not explicit as to whether Thomas actually touched Jesus’s wounds, what nearly bursts off the page is Thomas’ sudden recognition of the risen Jesus as he exclaims: My Lord, and my God!

In John’s gospel, Thomas has a unique and primary role. During the story of Lazarus’s death, Jesus calls his disciples to go with him to the home of the grieving sisters Mary and Martha. The disciples protest not once but twice. But Thomas exhorts the other disciples to follow Jesus saying: Let us also go, that we may die with him. Thomas exhibits deep loyalty and is willing, at least in theory, to die with Jesus.

Then, during Jesus’s farewell discourse, when he forewarns his disciples about what is soon to happen and where he is soon to go, Thomas asks what the rest are no doubt thinking: and where, Lord, might that be? Jesus’s answer to Thomas is perhaps the most quintessential disclosure of his identity: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. Thank goodness Thomas asked!

Through Thomas, Jesus invites each one of us to touch not only his wounds but to reveal our own, that we share in his resurrection and life, and continue to walk the Way through our own questioning, fear and doubt. 

Jesus breathed on his frightened disciples and said to them: receive the Holy Spirit. A fresh wind blew through the stale air, stirring the hearts of the disciples. Lapping about their feet, the tide of new Life and new Hope had come in. Jesus had kept his promises: He is Alive. 

May we open the doors of our hearts and come into the Light, wounded as we are, and forgiving as we are forgiven, the living breathing body of Christ. 

Peace be with you, Jesus says to his disciples. Peace be with you. Peace be with you.