Faith is a gift. We receive God’s gift to us of faith when we are baptized. The gift wrapped in water and sealed on our foreheads with the sign of the cross of Christ. It’s that simple. God gifts us faith. And yet, even though we know we are baptized, and we know we have the gift of faith, we still doubt. We still hide. We still lock our hearts and minds from anything that can cause us harm.
On the same day Mary proclaimed to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”, we find the disciples behind closed doors. Locked doors. Afraid for their lives. Living out of fear, and not emboldened by this reality that Christ has indeed risen. This is where we are in the text, right now. We can still smell the Easter lilies. We know we have seen the Lord, and yet even the strongest of us in faith have found ourselves locked in a room of fear and doubt at times. Feeling alone with our uncertainty and insecurity.
The disciples had every right to fear, for they knew first hand that human beings could nail God to a tree and shout “crucify”. Human beings could come for them, kill them.
Jesus enters into the room through the closed door to meet them exactly where they are. He greets them with peace to dispel their fear, to release their doubt, to give them everything they need to believe and know and have faith. And now they can be confident, they can trust in their faith because they have seen the Lord.
Right now, some in our country sit behind a locked door of fear and worry. People who fear for their lives and futures. The dreamers – those who identify as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – have lived in fear since the discussion of the elimination of their protection. According to a January poll by CBS news, “nearly 9 in 10 Americans favor allowing young immigrants who entered the US illegally as children to remain in the US.1” The number includes 79% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 87% of independents. That’s a pretty strong majority given this day and age.
In the news this week, a beloved Augsburg University professor from Kenya was issued a deportation notice after 26 years of being here. 90 days to leave, or be deported. If immigrants are living in fear behind the locked door, what does this mean for you and me? Well, for starters, there are two sides to a closed door. The way in and the way out. Those who are locked in. Those who are locked out. Two sides. In this case, you can either be on one side of the door, standing in the room for DACA policy to be maintained…or on the other side of the door, against it. Only the door stands in the middle. There’s no room designated for indifference.
We don’t all agree on immigration policy, but according to that poll, a significant portion of our country agrees about DACA and protecting the rights of those who were children when they arrived here. They were and are vulnerable. And we hear Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me” somewhere in the distance.
Today’s Gospel is all about how we need to see the Lord. How it’s not enough to hear that Mary saw the Lord. Or that the disciples saw the Lord. Thomas needs to see the Lord for himself. Even though we try to protect ourselves from the pain of this world, Jesus finds us. Breaks down what causes fear. Gets in the middle when we take sides. Stands guard between the oppressed and the oppressor. What if we reframed the way we hear this Gospel to see that Jesus IS the door?
Jesus didn’t die so we can hide. Jesus appears to the disciples, out of nowhere, sending the message “Peace be with you.” In their moment of anxiety, Jesus did not let a wall or barrier stop him from bringing the disciples much-needed peace. He is with those who are DACA, he is with us.
Jesus bestows the gift of peace, the first step in restoring us back into the community. When we are trapped in fear, we doubt. Just like the disciples. Until Jesus came back, showed his wounds, breathed peace onto and into them …only then were the disciples were ready to follow Jesus out in the world again.
Except for Thomas, the disciple who wasn’t there. Who missed out on the revelation. The one who needed proof. When we disbelieve, we lock ourselves into a place of doubt and insecurity. But what if we imagine Jesus as the door?
Jesus is the door to everything. That gift of faith is a promise. Sealed with water, protecting us from even our own doubt. It’s the invisible tattoo between our body and the world outside, the ones who could hurt us. That sign of the cross is our protective barrier, our superpower of sorts. Our door to everywhere.
And when we can’t remember that seal of promise given to us in baptism, Jesus enters our rooms of doubt and fear to bring us peace. To expose his wounded hands so that we can touch them once again, so we can confidently know that we have seen the Lord.
It’s a crazy time in our country. We are divided in so many ways. Some live in realities of fear, walled in their personal prisons; while others seem complicit in building walls to keep OUT what they fear.
Either way, Jesus is still the door. Even as we smell the Easter lilies, it can be easy to forget that we have seen the Lord. Yet another black man killed. Yet another overdose. It is no wonder that we find our brothers and sisters losing faith in humanity.
But we can never lose our faith in God, for God is the one who loved us enough to give us the gift of faith. And in those moments when we are Thomas, we need only call out for Jesus. He’s right there before we even say a word. And as we reveal our wounds of what it is to walk in this human journey, Jesus takes them on for us. Shows us his hands. Feeds us with bread and wine. Loves us, even when we can’t or won’t love ourselves.
Doubt is a normal part of our faith journey, another wall we put up to protect ourselves. But Jesus is still the door, the entryway into everything we need and the pathway to eternal life. We have a God whose faith in us can weather our doubts and bring us peace and forgiveness and hope, over and over again.
Today, we can breathe in God’s Peace. For Christ is risen. God entered the walls of the tomb to bring the dead to life again. Every time we close ourselves off in doubt or disbelief – when we grieve the loss that is inconceivable -God enters into our deepest sorrow, takes us from the death of suffering to life and hope anew. We die to ourselves in doubt and distrust. And then we are brought to life again in God’s light.
Thanks be to God, Jesus returns for the doubting one in each of us. He takes the wounded hand, breaks bread and feeds us. Forgives us. Refreshes us with cool water. Penetrates the walls we build. Disrupts the wars we wage in our hearts, in our homes, and in other lands.
Jesus knows our doubts, our struggles, our fears. God sends us peace through the Holy Spirit so that the walls we hide behind in our lives may be opened. So that we may find others in fear, and tell them we have seen the Lord. So that we may come to believe…and continue to believe. Amen.