19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
A day of rain—the first for weeks. There is something nice about the dark sky and the sound of rain on the roof. I am sitting at my desk in the church office glad for the intimacy one can feel on a dark, rain filled day. A post-Easter day for reflection.
John’s Gospel tells us that the disciples were huddled in a room hiding when Jesus found them. I don’t like John’s anti-semitic editorializing. The disciples were not fearful of the Jews; the Jews were oppressed themselves. They were fearful of the religious and political elite that executed Jesus for his dissenting and radical preaching. And the for fact that he thought he was the Messiah–not a small issue for the status quo. So they hid behind locked doors–fearful to let the world in and fearful to venture out. I wonder what they thought they were waiting for? If jesus hadn’t appeared, how long would they have stayed put?
Easy to criticize those cowardly disciples. Yet, I kind of relate. Has the today’s Church locked its own doors? Have we like the disciples chosen to close doors instead of open them? They did it out of fear of bodily harm or even death. We also are afraid of death. But not that kind of death. Our fear is the death of tradition. The death of how it used to be when Church meant people and money–what a heady combination that would be. But is our paralyzing fear of what might be (death of denomination) keeping us from what could be (new life in Resurrection)?
With the numbers (numbers of members and numbers of dollars) slowly but steadily shrinking, those of us that find much of our professional significance dependent on the structures of organized religion are growing fearful. Even if we seldom admit it. Are we as clergy and church leaders closing doors, just when we should be consciously and systematically flinging them open? Trying so hard to revive in old ways that we succeed only in double-bolting an already locked door? Do we really want Jesus to breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit on us?
It might change everything.
See You in the Pews,