Breath and Touch

Sermon from Sunday April 19, 2020

Scripture: John 20:19-31

Our Scripture story begins with the disciples huddled behind locked doors scared and afraid.  

It isn’t surprising that they are huddled in a room afraid – there has been unrest and death. Jesus was arrested and put to death, the religious officials are trying to suppress any gatherings in Jesus’ name. 

But this is AFTER the resurrection.  After Jesus rose from the dead. We might think that the stories of resurrection would give the disciples more boldness and courage. 

Last week there was talk of Easter not feeling like Easter.  We would still be in quarantine. Still afraid of the pandemic. Still unsure of our futures. Still trying to find a new normal and wondering what life beyond the pandemic will look like.  It can feel like Eater will erase all of our problems and we should face the world with nothing but confidence and happiness after resurrection.

But resurrection promises that death and sin are not the end of the story.  It does not promise that they are not a part of the story. 

This glimpse of the disciples after Easter is such a helpful insight  for us right now. Christ is risen and yet the disciples are still afraid. Christ is risen and the disciples are still huddled in a room, with locked doors. Christ is risen and we are still home on lockdown.

But the story doesn’t end with the disciples afraid and huddles.  Jesus comes to them with words of assurance – peace be with you.

Peace – in the Hebrew sense of the word is wholeness. He isn’t just wishing them calm but wholeness. And fullness of relationship with God.

Peace be with you.  That is a blessing that we can carry with us whether we are living under quarantine or as free as birds. That is a blessing that we need right now as we are behind locked doors, but also a blessing we need when we begin rebuilding our normal.

We need this blessing always.  Peace be with you. Wholeness and one-ness with God be with you.

And then Jesus breathed on them.  Imagine that breath from creation where God took clay, unformed earthy mud and breathed animation into it. Life. So Jesus takes these grieving, scared, locked away disciples and gives them the breath of life.

Grief and fear can slowly drain the life away from us, leaving us alive in the physical sense but dead in a spiritual sense.  This is not to say that we should not grieve or even experience frear, but that it cannot be our defining characteristic.

Wholeness and life. That is what defines those who walk the way of Jesus.

Maybe, Jesus is reminding us, that we get there one breath at a time. Each breath an inhaling of the goodness of God, a reminder that we are alive in creation and that our Lord is alive too. Our Lord is so alive that he can give us the breath of life so that when we cannot find out own breath he will breath for us.

Maybe  finding wholeness and life looks like taking a breath and trusting that God will meet us there.

And speaking of meeting people where they are – we have Thomas. Thomas who does not believe the testimony of his friends, who needs to see for himself.  

What to say about Thomas except that maybe we all have some Thomas in us? Maybe right now we are questioning God in this pandemic? Are you really with us God? Is Jesus really risen when the world seems to be crashing in around us? What does the resurrection matter when we are quarantined and watching the death toll numbers rise every day? How does resurrection when we are so alone and so afraid?

The tenderness of Jesus in coming to Thomas is beautiful.  He doesn’t scold him, at  least not in the beginning. He offers his hands and his sides for Thomas to touch. If the breathing on the disciples was one form of intimacy, this is another. Jesus presents himself to be touched by Thomas in his most tender place and utters the same blessing – peace be with you.

Perhaps this is the word and blessing we all need to hang on to right now. In the midst of our doubts, fears, and lockdown – God’s peace is with us. The risen Christ is with us.  Before we are sent out into the world to care for others and to tell the story of the good news Christ comes to us with breath, with blessings, with care. 

Describe a time you had the breath knocked out of you? What did it feel like? What helped you get your breath back?

How does this quarantine experience compare to having the breath knocked out of you?

How are you finding your breath again?

How are you experiencing the presence of God with you in quarantine?

What word of good news might you have to share with us tonight? With other people during this time of quarantine? 

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