Written by: Rachael Keefe

A Living Hope

I like Thomas. I’ve always liked Thomas. He was falsely labeled as “doubting Thomas.” Imagine being Thomas. Jesus died a week before and you’ve been sequestered with the rest of …

A Living Hope

Online home of the Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe.

I like Thomas. I’ve always liked Thomas. He was falsely labeled as “doubting Thomas.” Imagine being Thomas. Jesus died a week before and you’ve been sequestered with the rest of the 11 for fear of the Jewish and Roman authorities. Someone has to go out for supplies and so you go. Never would you have imagined the tales told upon your return. Jesus walked through the locked door and breathed the Holy Spirit on the 10 gathered there. You aren’t happy about this at all. Are they telling the truth? Are they messing with you? If they are telling the truth and it all happened, why weren’t you included? Maybe your response isn’t doubt so much as it is hurt feelings. No one likes to be left out of something so important.

If Thomas’ response was based on feeling left out and hurt, it makes more sense. The resurrected Christ shows up when he wasn’t there. Who could blame him for saying that he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and touched Jesus for himself? Surely, most of us can relate to that? As the kid who was always picked last for elementary school gym class activities, I feel for Thomas and don’t blame him for being angry, hurt, and more than a little jealous.

That being said, I’m not sure how helpful looking at this aspect of the story is for us in these days of COVID-19. After all, aren’t we all pretty much locked in our homes for fear of the virus? Many of us are complaining about not “feeling” the season of Easter. Who can believe in the possibility of resurrection when fear, death, and grief are literally all around us? Aren’t we better off joining Thomas in his feelings and declaring that we aren’t going to believe unless we see or touch resurrection for ourselves?

If we are honest about where we are at, we might discover something amazingly powerful and hopeful in this overly familiar story. If we can acknowledge our fear, our doubt, our grief, our sadness, and our anger over all that COVID-19 has done to disrupt and destroy our sense of “normal,” then we might be ready to figure out where God is in the midst of this.

John tells us that Jesus entered the room through locked doors, not once but twice. No amount of fear or grief or anger or sadness or jealousy kept out the Risen Christ. Moreover, Christ entered the room to breathe peace, the peace of the Holy Spirit. I imagine Jesus breath of life blowing away the dust of fear and the cobwebs of anxiety to allow a bit of hope and healing to shine through. This breath of peace made it possible for those huddled in that room to begin to imagine a future without Jesus with them, a future that could bring hope and healing to the wider world. This is the real miracle in this story. The Risen Christ woke up the church, or those who would become church.

No locked doors can stop the Risen Christ from entering in. The fact that the doors of our churches are locked and that we are all scattered will not stop the Risen Christ from entering in. Assuming that the Risen Christ is still about breathing out the Holy Spirit, then it’s possible for the dust of fear and the cobwebs of anxiety to be blown off of us – no matter how we are gathering. What might happen if the breath of life is awakening the church anew right now?

Resurrection is not usually the response we have to death and destruction. Yet, it is God’s response. Our reluctance to believe or participate in resurrection does not prevent it from happening. The planet is awakening in new ways while humanity is sheltering in place. Why not the church, too? Why not humanity as a whole? After all, with God all things are possible, even the Body of Christ rising up to new life in the midst of COVID-19 destruction.

The power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Risen Christ is not dependent on our buildings, our rituals, or our traditions, fortunately for us. Let’s all take a deep breath and look around to find out what God is doing in our midst and then join in – keeping to a faithful physical distance, of course. Maybe we might get lucky enough to see and touch resurrection for ourselves. Or, maybe, just being a part of it means we don’t have to touch anything.

Peace be with you, my friends, as we all do this new thing and expect the Risen Christ to show up in our relationships with one another.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Photo: CC0image by DreamyArt

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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