Easter 2A; John 20:19 ff; 4/19/20
How difficult is it to change your mind after you’ve made it up?
Thomas, as had all the disciples, had experienced secondary trauma. Give your life to a person for three years, have them whisked away and killed. Be at risk as an accomplice. Then hear news that he had risen some 55 hours later, and not see him for another week while his peers did.
Trauma numbs the mind, stunning a person, so functioning is impaired. Numbness is a condition that can go on for a week or more for someone who is traumatized. Have you ever been in a situation with a group of friends who had either seen a movie, gone to a concert or ate at a new restaurant while you weren’t able to be there? The next time you gather they all talk about the experience that you didn’t have. It’s easy to feel on the outside looking in. Thomas was on the outside looking in.
The other thing Thomas missed was when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the others—sharing in something that Thomas was not present to receive, putting him at an extreme disadvantage.
The disciples were released from their anxiety while Thomas was bound by his.
The disciples were most likely looking back and swapping stories, integrating all the experiences and teachings of Jesus, while to Thomas, Jesus was still dead.
I pause for a moment to make a related point: This is one of the experiences guests have when they come to a congregation. Having no idea about the bonds that have been built for years which we share, they are standing on the outside looking in. It takes real intention for a community to begin to assist a new person or family graft on to the history of a community.
Another point is that all of us are on various phases and places on our journey of faith.
To expect that another be where we are or be more “finished” than they are is an extreme act of cruelty.
We all have our crosses to bear attempting to die of what we need to die to in order to receive the Holy Breath of Life that never fades away. We need to cut others some slack, or in the words of Jesus, to take the log out of our own eyes in order to help them remove the spec from theirs.
When we have difficulty with what we experience from others when they are going through their own cross, it might mean that we need to ask the Spirit to give us a little more compassion towards those who are bound by their brokenness, remembering all along that we are still broken by much of our own history.
I say this because in times of stress like we are now, we will see both the best in people and the worst in people. We all would prefer seeing the best in people. Because their worst can trigger our own. Our spiritual homework begins in how we remain in peace when others are at their worst. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we forego the boundaries of interpersonal relationships.
But it does mean that we can understand and act with compassion instead of rejection.
This can be one of our most trying spiritual lessons—learning to love what is unlovable in others—realizing we still have unlovable traits in ourselves—well hopefully realizing this.
It is too convenient for us to forget our uncomfortable shadow sides.
There was a saying among therapists, that the next new client you would see would bring forth an issue that was also the one that we needed to deal with. That’s God’s sense of humor for sure—but more so his love because he keeps wanting to say, “Peace be with you” to us where there it is lacking.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a two sided coin. There’s no such thing as a one sided coin.
We are able to love our neighbors as much as we allow Jesus to love us—thus loving and accepting ourselves. That which we haven’t accepted within us we cannot accept in another.
Jesus revisits the disciples twice in a week and says “Peace be with you,” three times. Why would he do this? Once is not enough. We need Jesus breathing in us all the time which requires us to come out of hiding in our tombs and allow his breath, life and peace to permeate us.
We have to remember what peace is. Peace in the Aramaic means, “I surrender to you.”
This doesn’t mean the same thing that is does in our culture, such as in losing a war. Surrender means to yield.
Jesus says, “I yield to you,” to invite the disciples to yield, to open up, and receive him. Peace is not its own object. Receiving Jesus is peace. Peace is the experience of Jesus received.
And when Jesus breathes in us, we will hear familiar words coming from the depths of our souls: “My Lord, and My God!”