Who here this evening has ever experienced fear? Whoâs ever been uncertain or unsure about something? Whoâs ever doubted or been unable to trust? Whoâs ever been so filled with fear that their life was limited by it?
I can say with certainty, that not only have I experienced fear, uncertainty, doubt, had difficulty trusting, and allowed fear to limit my life, but that fear has been a familiar companion in my life. I remember that as a young child I was terrified of water. I grew up on an island in the middle of Lake Washington just outside of Seattle, and the water was so dark that it was impossible to see what was just under the surface. My family and friends assured me over and over that there was nothing to fear, but not being able to see, not knowing for certain what was there, paralyzed me with fear and I refused to go into the water for many years.
And I as I grew older, I continued to experience fear and uncertainty in different ways: fear of rejection at the 6th grade dance, fear of coming out in high school, fear of not being accepted into college, fear of not getting a job, fear of not being able to keep a job,
fear of being uninsured and getting sick, fear of not being able to pay my bills, fear of terrorism at airports and in subways, fear of guns and violence in public places, fear of succumbing to addiction, fear of not being good enough or successful enough, fear of being alone, fear of failure, fear of not being happy, fear of death.
Fear and uncertainty abound because living and dying and being in relationship with ourselves and others and God is complicated and challenging and we are rarely given much certainty about anything. More often than not, we are confronted with fear in our churches, fear in our nations, fear in our cities, fear in our homes, and fear in our hearts.
Can we trust the church? Can we trust our leaders? Can we trust ourselves and others? Can we trust God?
The disciples in the gospel we just heard certainly did not trust anyone. They were completely paralyzed with fear, locked away inside their house, barricaded from the chaotic and uncertain world outside. They had just experienced the shock of Jesusâ violent death nailed to a Roman cross.
With Jesus dead and gone, everything was up for grabs, everything was uncertain.
And there were rumors that Jesus had risen from the dead! Peter and John saw the empty tomb along with Mary Magdalene, but only Mary had actually seen Jesus aliveâmaybe e she, in her grief, was imagining that she had seen him? Maybe her grief had caused false hope?
So much fear. So much uncertainty. Living and dying and being in relationship with God and others was so complicated and challenging that the only real solution seemed to be to lock themselves away in fear, in self preservation. âWhat now?â I can imagine them saying. But then, in the midstâin the middleâof this unbearable uncertainty, when the disciples simply couldnât take anymore fear, when they were at their most desperate, when their future seemed to be completely hopeless, Jesus showed upâŠâPeace be with you!â Peace be with you! Jesus showed up to bring them peace! Just as Jesus destroyed the fear and uncertainty of the grave, Jesus destroyed their fear and uncertainty by entering into their locked room, by coming into their
locked hearts, and giving them the certainty of his peace. Peace be with you!
Jesus showed up because having destroyed death, it was time to destroy their fear of death. Jesus showed up because he wanted to make certain that they saw his wounds and scars and touched his wounds and scars and in so doing be united to him in their shared woundedness, peace be with you! Jesus showed up to open wide their doors, to lift the shroud of doubt that clung to them, to transform their uncertainty and fear and clothe them with the joy and peace of his Spirit, peace be with you! Jesus showed up that they might trust in him, that they might have life in him. Because after all, he had been telling them and showing them all along that he came that they might have life and have it abundantly!
And this encounter with Jesus, this experience of receiving peace, this experience of touching wounds and scars his scars, this experience of receiving his Spirit, this experience of trustâit caused them to rejoice! It changed them, it transformed them! It caused them to shout out âMy Lord and My God!â
The believers and doubters alike were transformed and caught up in his love and peace because Jesus didnât come just to save those who believe, he came for everyone, especially for those who are filled with fear, and uncertainty, and doubt, and have trouble trusting.
In the presence of Jesus, locked doors mean nothing! In the presence of Jesus, peace comes first! In the presence of Jesus, those who are deeply wounded, those who travel this life wounded and with many scars can touch Jesusâ wounds and trace his scars and can with certainty find themselves reflected in him. In the presence of Jesus fears become shouts of joy, doubts become proclamations of trust, and we are led byâno set on fire byâthe Spirit of God that empowers us with the courage to proclaim to a wounded and fearful world that in Jesus there is life, and life for all!
And the best part about thisâif there can be a best part?! Jesus came to them! Jesus showed up when they needed him the most; when they didnât think he could or would show up; when they didnât feel his presence; when they thought he was dead;
when they thought he had left them alone. Overcome by death, new life entered their lives and dwelled among them!
And Jesus shows up for us too! Right here, in this space, and in our daily lives, among the gathered believers and those who struggle to believe, in the midst of the wounds and scars we all bear, Jesus shows up to transform our fear into peace and joy, our doubts into trust, to breath new life into us, to dwell among us. When we need him the most, when we need new life, when we need courage and trust and peace and joy. Jesus shows up, just like he promised.
Who here this evening has ever experienced hope? Alleluia Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed Alleluia! Amen!