John 20: 24-31
Last week, Vicky beautifully read for us the Resurrection Story of Mary encountering the Risen Christ in the Garden on that first Easter morning. And then with the “Alleluias” of Suzie’s soaring voice reverberating in the rafters, I spoke that resurrection is to be our great commissioning. I spoke of how we are to step into and live out of the story making resurrection come alive in our living. I invited us all to be Mary, running with “Alleluia” on our lips out into the word to share the good news of Living Love.
But, I’m afraid I might have been a bit hasty. I’m afraid I may have gotten ahead of myself. Because — resurrection living is not something one hears about and then just suddenly decides to do, right? I mean, we cannot be expected that just taking someone else’s word for it will make it true for us. That we can just decide to start living resurrection now.
I asked us to be as Mary was, but I think it is actually not as straightforward as that after all. For even if Mary’s words have touched us, we may not feel ready to run through those doors and out onto Beacon street announcing the Good News. The more that I consider it, in fact, the more I feel that most of us may be more akin to those other disciples than to Mary – more akin to those other disciples that were sitting in that darkened room behind drawn drapes than the one who burst in with face aflush with joy.
We may be more like those who have heard the good news announced, and who may even want to believe, but don’t really know how. We hear the stories of God’s love alive in the world. We pass the peace. We drink from the cup and eat the bread. We do all of this, but do we really feel it alive for us? Are we really stepping into and living out of the story? Is God’s living love rising in us?
Maybe, hopefully but I don’t think totally and completely, not yet at least. Instead, I think there is still some fear, worry, some wondering about what living love really is, with us yet. This is not a judgment. It’s simply a recognition of how hard it can be to let God’s love enliven us. Sometimes it is just really hard to trust that all of this could possibly be true. The passage just before the one read for today tells that in the evening of that first day, the day that began with Mary’s announcement, Jesus came to them too! Even though the door was locked and the drapes were drawn and even though it was is dark outside and they were full of fear, Jesus comes to them with his peace.
But what is so poignant is that even after Mary’s flushed announcement and even after they heard and saw Jesus for themselves, they still remained locked away in that room. The text for today tells us that a week passes after that remarkable day and still they are stuck there in that room, stuck there in that fear and wondering, even after they too “have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas missed it. The twin who knows what it is to live so in synch with another. Thomas missed it. He wasn’t there that evening when Living Love came into that room. The text doesn’t tell us why. Maybe he was simply out picking up provisions in the market. But, I tend to think there was something more going on. I imagine Thomas felt so intensely a longing, a deep desire to see and be with Jesus. I image he hungered to be with Jesus again so much that he just could not sit there in that room any longer. I imagine his longing to be with Jesus was so acute that it propelled him up and out of fear and worry and into actively seeking for himself what it was that Mary saw. He was not in the room that night because he had gone out seeking the risen Lord even if that meant risking those darkening and dangerous streets.
And then when Thomas returned and entered again that room later that night, a quick glance at the rest of them shows that nothing had changed. They are still all there, the drapes still drawn. They are all still sitting there. So it is no wonder that Thomas does not believe them when they tell him that they have seen the Lord. For Thomas who hungers so deeply sees nothing in them that would make him believe that what they say is true. They are as he left them. So deep was his longing for Jesus that he cannot imagine that anyone could possibly have seen the Risen Christ and not have been changed. And so he insists that he will not believe until he actually touches Jesus for himself.
And of course that is exactly what comes next. Jesus appears again this time for Thomas. In the moment that Thomas’ longing meets the risen Jesus, transformation begins. Thomas begins to feel deep in his heart the rising of love. He begins to feel love rising in him. And all face to face with love he stammers “My Lord and my God!”
So why is it that Mary and Thomas are so profoundly moved and changed by their encounter with Jesus while the rest of the disciples, at least at this point are not? Why is resurrection life beginning to rise in Mary and Thomas while the rest of the disciples still sit in darkness, at least at this point? What is it that Mary and Thomas share that the rest of the disciples at least at this point, don’t seem to yet be in touch with?
I think it has everything to do with what it is what they most truly and deeply desire. I think it has everything to do with a bone deep, soul yearning desire to be with Jesus. The rest of the disciples are putting all of their effort into trying hard not to be afraid, trying hard to figure out what is to come next, trying to figure out what to do now. Maybe all of this trying so hard has buried that burning desire they once had to be nowhere else than at his side. Perhaps all their effort to not be afraid and trying hard to figure out what is to come next has buried that expansive peace and deep contentment they once felt in his presence.
But, in contrast, a deep down, bone deep, soul yearning kind of desire still burns in Mary and still burns in Thomas. These two could not sit still but had to go, had to go out and find him, had to be with him even if that meant going to the tomb, or even if that meant wandering down darkened streets alone.
Franciscan friar and author Richard Rohr writes that the spiritual life is all about is stripping away all that has buried this ontological deep down, bone deep, soul yearning kind of desire that is our birth right from God. The spiritual life is about uncovering, stripping away, excavating and laying bare this yearning.
Being able to awaken this hunger, to be in touch again with this desire, he believes uncovers the place where God is waiting to meet us and tips us into a transformed life of living love. In essence awakening this hunger and longing gives the space for the risen one who has been waiting at the door of one’s heart, to walk fully in, and when that happens, living love rises.
In a few short verses, the Gospel of John will add Peter to the likes of Mary and Thomas. For in few short verses, Peter will rediscover this passion for Jesus that had been dulled by fear, worry and maybe even the shame of failings. The gospel of John will tell us in a few short verses that when Peter and the others decided that they could sit in that room no longer, they headed back to Galilee to return to the only thing they figured they could do now, fish. The Gospel will tell us that at day break they see someone standing on the beach who calls out to them and tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat so that they will find some fish. At this the Gospel tells us they recognize that is Jesus who calls. And over come with a resurrected bone deep, soul yearning hunger to be no where else but with Jesus, Peter leaps out of the boat and swims frantically to reach Jesus as fast as he can.
This wet to the bone, wide eyed, jubilant Peter is the same Peter who we now see encounter in the book of Acts, fully living love, fearless before the court, holding fast to what he knows now, bone deep down knows now to be true: that Love lives and that through living love, all now can truly live.
So the good news of this resurrection story is perhaps not so much that we, like Mary, must now run out into the world announcing living love. The good news of this story is perhaps that there is room for all of us to step into it and live out of it. There is room for the Mary’s among us who are ready with swift feet and Alleluia on our lips. There is room for those of us who are still stuck in a dark place unsure of what to do or what to believe. There is room for those of us like Thomas who are restlessly seeking, boldly doubting until it becomes real for us too!
But it doesn’t just stop there, for the really good news of the story is that no matter where we are in the story, the risen living love that is Jesus will find us. Not just once, not just twice, but over and over again until we too are ready to be tipped into living love. Until we too want nothing more than that the risen one who has been waiting at the door of our heart, may walk fully in, and that we too may feel living love rise in us! And please, don’t just take my word for it. Let love live for yourselves!! Amen