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April 17, 2020

"Peace be with you!"  You are not alone.

The Gospel reading on the Second Sunday of Easter is always the same, John 20:19-31.  It begins, "When it was evening--on that day--the first day of the week, and the doors of the house of the disciples were locked for fear….Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."  Like all things this Easter season, this story takes on new and significant meaning.  I don't know about you, but I have a completely new understanding when I read, "the doors were locked for fear".  The cities are empty, the churches are empty, the doors are locked for fear.  They were afraid of retribution, of ending up on a cross, just like Christ.  We are afraid of a virus, of having no income, of our economic system collapsing, of the great unknown destruction and challenge ahead of us.  I think it's a lot like being with Noah in the ark, waiting for the rain to stop, the land to dry out.  Life on the ark was cramped and fraught and didn't smell good, but who knew what awaited them when they finally stepped off onto a new and unknown beach?

The disciples were huddled together in the fear and safety of the moment.  They thought they were finished, that the world had ended.  They were partly right.  The world as they knew it had ended.  How do we know?  Because it is evening, the first day, that daythe beginning of creation!  A new world had begun.  Did they know it?  No.  Did they understand it?  No.  They were blind and afraid, because that's how fearful humans are.   And then Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."   In other words, "Put down your fear."  Was there no longer anything to be afraid of?  He shows them his wounded hands and feet.  It wasn't a dream, it wasn't a hoax.  The crucifixion was a reality.  There was plenty to be afraid of!  But Christ asked them to put their fear aside anyway, because something much more important, something much more powerful was about to be manifest in each of them.  He breathes on them, fills them with the power of God and sends them out, a handful of confused, frightened people who will change the world.  Turns out, they were just beginning!

I've been thinking about the plagues that devastated Europe.  They were terrible, causing unimaginable death and suffering.  This disaster of disease inspired profound questioning of faith in God by those who survived.  Where was God?  How could this terrible thing happen?   There were years of difficult struggle as people sought to rebuild their lives, but as they did, a new world began to emerge.  It was new, because as people made their way forward, the feudal system of workers belonging to the land and the lord, came undone.  The stage was set for the profound and growing understanding that all human beings are equally loved and valued by God and that freedom is fundamental to the wholeness of humanity.  What many dismissed in churches they found with clarity in their hearts.  Slowly but surely, from the destruction of death and despair, they built a new world, each generation understanding more clearly and claiming more boldly the right of freedom and dignity for all.

Like you, I don't know what we will find when we climb out of this boat of COVID-19 shutdown.  I pray that the world will not be changed forever, but I suspect that it will.  And I don't know yet what God will expect from me, what challenges will be put in front of us.  And I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that I'm a little afraid and I wish this cup could pass.  So, today, God in all God's goodness says, "Peace be with you!"  "Breathe.  Feel the sun on your face.  Feel the power of my Spirit.  I am with you.  You are not alone.

A new world had begun.  Did they know it?  No.  Did they understand it?  No.  They were blind and afraid, because that's how fearful humans are.   And then Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

Dear Friends,

This is the season of Easter, of joy and love and life eternal even if we are stuck at home.  First, thank you to all who sent in their pledge.  On behalf of all of us, we are grateful. We now have new bulletin boards and a new banner on the church.  It's fun to check the messages and great that the chalk comes in such happy Easter colors.  Mia is working on a new website so that will be fun to explore and use when it is completed.  Not much went onto Facebook this week, but we will work at being more creative and productive next week.

Bishop Thom has asked that we continue to worship at home until May 24.  That means we will continue to live stream on Facebook on Sundays at 10:30 AM.  I know it is hard to go without holy communion and equally hard not to see one another, but hopefully we will find some way to return to worship soon.  Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.



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