Although our world is facing the challenge of COVID-19, I am so glad for the parts of life that remain unchanged. Every day brings press conferences with appalling numbers of the losses we endure, talk of restrictions and life that seems like it’s in a state of flux. Yet, peanut butter, Netflix, and, of course, the Revised Common Lectionary remain.
Moving through the Easter season has brought its own challenges for all of us. How do we, as congregations, remain faithful in a time of physical distancing? How do we tell the stories that have shaped us into a faithful people for millennia? The whirlwind of facts, questions and anxiety builds around us. Yet whatever questions we may have, the narrative of Jesus remains.
The comfort of the Lectionary remains as well, and we find ourselves in John 20:19-31. These stories and more that we share over and over affirm us as we experience the whirlwind. But who is at the centre of the whirlwind?
Everything that the disciples have gone through in the last week has led them all to this moment. The fear of the Romans and the religious leaders puts the disciples and their companions into one room, cowering. And Jesus appears in the room and speaks to them twice of peace: “Peace be with you.”
Imagine that last week of their lives together. All the way back to the hopefulness of Sunday, to a beautiful supper, the betrayal and trials, the flogging and Peter’s denial. All of the terror and horror leading up to seeing their gentle and fiercely good friend being hung up on a dirty Roman cross, his dignity gone. Jesus, dead on a cross. Their hopes dashed.
I didn’t understand their lack of faith. The wretchedness of their terror after his death seemed so small. Didn’t they know who they had walked with for three years? Why didn’t they believe Mary Magdalene? And why wouldn’t Thomas just believe?
Now you and I sit behind closed doors. And it’s different than their worry. But I think that now that I have had a chance—and I’ll call it that, a chance to be afraid of an unseen menace that may “get” people I love—I am a bit closer to the disciples now. We are all sitting in a place we’ve never been before. Fear is real.
In the middle of the disciples’ fear, Jesus did not proclaim judgment. He could have appeared in that room and laid down the law, but he didn’t. Jesus, the only one who could have judged every one of those disciples, comes into their midst and proclaims, “Peace be with you.” And then he breathes the blessing of the Holy Spirit into them, into their midst.
Friends, if there is fear among us, then let it be found by Jesus, just as he came among the disciples in that closed room, and let us receive the blessing of the presence of Christ yet again.
Andrea Enns-Gooding is pastor of Zoar Mennonite Church, Waldheim, Sask., and a member of the MC Saskatchewan Council.