Peace is Alive
The Rev. Laurel Hart
Scripture: John 20:19-31
“Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge”
More than any other time in my life I can relate to the disbelief felt by the disciple Thomas. After hearing the reports of the visits from the risen Christ, he still demands proof. His mind is searching for clarity. When Jesus does appear again, he shows Thomas loving compassion and allows him to touch his wounds. If I don’t open my window shades in the morning to observe the greatly reduced traffic on the road in front of our house or turn on the TV news to hear the updated count of those who’ve died from the Corona virus, I can pretend that we aren’t living during a pandemic. Just as this disciple needed to touch the flesh of Jesus, I need to see with my own eyes what is happening in the world around me so I can try to comprehend today’s actual facts of life. Last Tuesday our dog food supply was getting low, so I placed an order and drove into Gresham to pick it up. Seeing the view of the Starbucks store dark inside, Burger King and Dairy Queen only allowing take away orders and the other restaurants in the same two-block area with signs posted in windows and outside walls encouraging customers to order online was a dose of reality I needed to grasp. This is real. We are living through one of the scariest times I’ve ever experienced in my life. In the strip mall on Burnside Street, the craft store, the sporting goods store, the clothing store and office products store were dark and shuttered. This fact left me feeling a chill to my core and deep sadness for the employees sent home, unable to work. I imagine these to be people who likely are worrying about having enough money to cover the basics of life such as rent and food, not to mention the stress of trying to manage the education of their children in a time of online school and all of us — their customers — who are also shut out of “normal life” right now.
But didn’t we celebrate Easter last week? It wasn’t the Easter celebration which we are accustomed to with the familiar hymns, the pageantry and the festive liturgy with the stinky white lilies, but it was Easter none the less. After all, none of us were there for that first Easter two thousand years ago. We didn’t get to see and touch or experience that first Resurrection Easter for ourselves. I needed to see and touch just like Thomas to ground myself and to remind myself that unlike other scary times in my life, this time I’m not alone. The world is sharing this experience with all of us, and to remind myself that Jesus was indeed resurrected from death for the salvation of the world.
According to Scripture, Jesus breathed on them at that appearance in the upper locked room and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. Now, it seems like the Holy Spirit is active all around us. This is the means by which we the people, who are the church, are living out our charge to bring the peace of Christ in this time of a world pandemic. Peace is alive in the deep caring and concern people are giving each other. It is alive also in the money donated to the desperate causes which provide medical supplies to front line workers, the food donated to food banks to assist those without paychecks, the errands run for those unable to safely leave their homes, the calls to check in on another person and the written notes of love and concern.
In his book The Rule of St. Benedict, Benedict was quoted as saying “when we embrace suffering – those difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions – we crack open a space in our hearts for change, for growth, for gaining strength, and ultimately wisdom.”
I truly believe that most of us will bear some scars of both physical and emotional trauma from this unimaginable time of epidemic. The question becomes “how can these scars become integrated into our own resurrection?” Can we hold onto the positive changes in our world such as the willingness of people to help other human beings both known and unknown to them? Can we remember that we all have the same needs for the basics of life such as food, shelter, some level of economic security and safety for our loved ones? Can we let go of the red and blue political labels and remember that all people (especially those of color or those living on the economic margins) are susceptible to this virus?
Let us remember the words Jesus said to his followers – allow this short phrase to linger in your hearts - “Peace be with you.” Because really that is what our season of Easter is about. Amen.