Rev. Heather J. Blais
On the day of Resurrection, most of the disciples were gathered together in one house. They were still mulling over the news that Jesus’ body had been removed from the tomb, when Mary came bursting in, announcing she had ‘seen the Lord’. Yet instead of rejoicing, the disciples got up, and locked the doors. They were afraid. Maybe they were afraid this was some cruel power move by leaders at the Temple, in order to finally put an end to the Jesus Movement. Maybe they were afraid that Mary, in her grief, had completely lost her mind. Maybe they were afraid that it was true. What does it mean to see the dead rise? What were the disciples supposed to do now? This information overwhelmed them, terrified them. Like children afraid of the shadows moving in their room at night, they closed their eyes, and pretended nothing was happening.
We can likely all relate to that feeling. Being so afraid of the unknown, of the possible effects of change, that we long to calm down our hearts and minds by simply locking the door and pretending this isn’t really happening. Yet when we are overwhelmed by our fear, Christ comes to meet us where we are. The resurrected Jesus appeared in the house, walking thru walls to get there. In order to help the disciples overcome their fear, he greets them ‘Peace be with you’ and then shows them his hands and side. In that moment, the disciples knew they no longer needed to be afraid; they rejoiced. Jesus responded to their joy by starting the conversation again, greeting them a second time, ‘Peace be with you’. He then commissions the disciples to go and be the Jesus Movement, breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, giving them new life in the process.
When we are unsure, and afraid, Christ comes to meet us where we are. Thomas missed meeting the resurrected Jesus, doubted it was possible, explained to his friends that the only way he would believe is if he touched Jesus’ wounds for himself. A week later, the resurrected Jesus shows up, just so Thomas can touch and see for himself. With God’s help, Thomas overcame his fear and doubt. With God’s help, we too, can overcome our fears and doubt. Because two thousand years ago, Jesus spoke to future Christians, by blessing us. He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29).
It is so easy to let fear and doubt overwhelm us, to keep us stuck in place, or even behind locked doors. Take a widow and widower who find one another after losing their respective spouses. It might have been easier to never love again. The widow and widower will always have a lifetime of memories and love for their former spouses that they will bring into their new marriage. Yet for it to be a joyful marriage, one that is life-giving and loving, neither the widow or widower can expect their new spouse to simply fill the void of their deceased spouse. They will have some things to work out as they live together and love one another.
The widow may have spent the last sixty Christmas Day’s at the family farmhouse, surrounded by her large extended family, while the widower may have been accustomed to a quiet morning with his former spouse. The widow may have kept the coffeemaker in one place, and the widower another. The widower may have used Scotch toilet paper, and the widow may have used Charmin.
The longer we have lived, the more likely we are to become stuck in our ways. So you might imagine, a couple that marries later in life, after having each lost a beloved spouse, has a few more things to sort out as they learn to share a home and make a life together. Yet there is no doubt in either of the couple’s minds, that this marriage is for the better. They know in their heart of hearts that they will be better together, loving one another until the very last.
As our two communities come together to become the people of Saints James and Andrew, we too must overcome our fears of leaving our former lives to create a new life together. A new life where, we too, will be better together. Just like the disciples gathered in that room, I believe the Holy Spirit is breathing on us as a beautiful new life unfolds for us this Easter. Just like the widow and widower, we will have to sort out what toilet paper we use, where the coffee maker goes, and how we celebrate Christmas. There will be unanticipated bumps, that we will work out as we learn to live together.
At nearly every wedding ceremony, the couple chooses 1 Corinthians 13 to be read because it beautifully captures just what love is supposed to look like. Yet Paul was not writing to a couple in love, he was writing to the church. He was telling us, the body of Christ, that love is patient, that love is kind. He was calling on us to be generous with one another, hospitable, showing one another kindness, love, and respect as we create a life together.
Only God knows what ministry, mission, and spiritual growth will unfold as we come together to become one new parish. Yet, I assure you, I have never felt more joyful, more hopeful for our future than I do today. I have never felt more respect, and admiration for your faith and courage as the people of God.
As we begin our life together today, let us remember Paul’s words for the church: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
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