JESUS SHOWS UP
When 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.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
(John 20:19; 24-25)
Let me begin by confessing – I relate to Thomas. I relate to his desire to concretely see the resurrected Jesus. I relate to his skepticism of a community that has been ravaged by grief. As I consider this familiar narrative, I’ve asked myself, how does one look for hope in the midst of the shadows and darkness that break into our reality, threatening our ability to embrace the light of Easter morning? As we know, the news of yet another mass shooting took center stage –in Louisville, KY, about 3 blocks away from where faithful siblings diligently serve the larger church on our behalf. This shooting coming on the heals of the mass shooting in Nashville, followed by recent shootings in Philadelphia. Friends, to be clear – I believe in the empty tomb. I believe that we are called to step out of the darkness; to leave the linens that bound us behind. But at times the darkness just seems to follow us into the light. The darkness seems relentless – causing a simultaneous inability to lean into the hope of the resurrection along with a weariness and exhaustion that permeates our very bodies and spirits.
And yet, even now – I am cognizant and deeply moved by how Jesus shows up again and again. Jesus shows up – unfathomed by the doors that we believe would shelter us from harm. Jesus shows up – unexpectedly offering words of assurance and blessing. Jesus shows up – reaffirming and inviting us to believe – even as we challenge his presence with our doubts and fears. Today I am reminded of how God shows up – breaking into our lives, pouring out a liberating power of unforeseen possibilities. In the midst of Thomas’ journey of doubt, Jesus just shows up – once again defying the darkness of our fears and doubts.
Jesus showed up then and Jesus shows up today. I’m writing this reflection from the Jersey Shore where we just did an evening devotional with pastors of our Lilly initiative – Cultivating Enough in the Care of Clergy. What a blessing to sit in prayer and silence with them. What a blessing to break bread together, laughing and enjoying the conversation and food. What a blessing to engage one another in our humanity as opposed to our roles. I arrived weary into this space – but as the evening is upon us, I am aware that once again Jesus showed up, breaking through the ‘stuff’ we carry from our work and personal lives; breathing that breath of heaven that renews our souls – whispering unexpectedly “Peace be with you.” For this I am grateful.
Friends as we continue to affirm our identity as an Easter people, I invite us to consider the many ways that Jesus shows up in our lives as individuals and as communities of faith. Consider the unexpected embrace; the song that touches you; a love you cherish; a word of encouragement. Consider the waves breaking gently on the shore; the spring flowers sharing their colors. There is no question that we share some of the same fears and doubts of those first believers. These are not the easiest of times – but as I’ve shared before – this is our time; our time to show up. This is the time we’ve been given to serve as co-creators with a God who brings new life out of death. May we lean into this resurrection season hearing the words of Jesus – “Peace be with you.” May the peace of Christ be with us all.