Sermon – WALLS
When I was actively preaching once a month I would sit down to do some advance planning for worship. I’d look at the scriptures coming up on the lectionary and record some preliminary thoughts or I’d list possible places for research material.
Trying to do that as efficiently as possible, I would try and summarize the text, to come up with quick one or two sentence synopsis of the scripture so that I would recognize the story without having to look it up.
I’d come up with something like – “the one about the 10 lepers where only one of them gave thanks” or “Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave.” You get the idea.
Well, Pastor Sabrina asked me about three weeks ago to take this morning’s sermon and if you had asked if I had decided what I’d be preaching on today – I would say simply “the one about Jesus walking through walls,”
You see – This passage is more usually referred to as the one about Doubting Thomas, but that wasn’t how I was thinking about it. For some reason, I kept coming back to it’s the one about Jesus walking through walls.
You know the scene, the disciples hiding in the room behind locked doors and Jesus appearing to them, apparently by walking through the walls.
For me, Thomas isn’t the main character although millions of Christians around the world
have taken comfort in the phrase spoken by our Lord
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”
Here’s the thing – For Thomas the Cross was only what he had expected. When Jesus had proposed going to Bethany to raise Lazarus – a dangerous journey because Jesus was a wanted man. – Thomas’ response was “Let us also go, that we may also die with him”
It wasn’t courage that Thomas lacked but he had a great deal of pessimism about him. His love for his leader and mentor was never an issue.
This may be the reason I kept returning to the WALLS. It has a more personal and yet a universal focus.
For me, this is a story about disciples hiding behind thick walls and locked doors and Jesus getting in anyway. And offering them peace – Shalom – That’s what sticks in my mind. I freely admit that’s because I can relate to walls so well. – I’ve built quite a few in my day. Probably you have too.
The walls and locked doors the disciples were hiding behind were probably made of brick and wood, and they were certainly hiding from the Jews and the Roman army,
the folks who had had Jesus arrested,
the ones who had crucified their master.
Only incidentally did those walls also keep out everyone else who might have wanted to see them,
– folks like the women who were babbling about angels and empty tombs,
– folks like the many who had heard Jesus preach or seen him heal the sick and might have been looking for someone to talk about the events of the past few days
– or just folks who might have wanted to tell the disciples how sorry they were that this Jesus, their leader had come to
such a bad end.
Walls have a tendency to do that: to lock out not only those we fear but everyone else as well. Now – The walls we hide behind may not be as literal as the scriptural walls but they are just as solid and just as likely to lock out our friends as well as our foes.
The disciples chose to hide behind walls out of fear.
Fear of the Jews and the Sanhedrin
Fear of being found by the soldiers
Fear of what it all meant to the future
What were they to do? At least that was one of the reasons. There may have been others, reasons like:
` SHAME – perhaps some of them were thinking
“we were fools to follow him –
to think he might be the Messiah,
and now we’ll have to swallow our pride, go back to our lives, admit we were wrong,
and that we just wasted three years.”
Maybe they were hiding to put off that humiliation.
There may have been other reasons like:
GUILT – maybe some of them were thinking
“we should have fought for him,
we should have died with him,
we should have at least spoken up and taken our chances,
we should have done something.”
Maybe they were filled with self-loathing and were trying to hide from that.
There may have been other reasons like being overwhelmed by grief – after all he was
their constant companion for three years.
Those of us who have grieved the loss of someone we love – know all too well that Grief doesn’t welcome “getting on with life.” Maybe they were hiding from the necessity of going on.
Aren’t those the same reasons we hide behind walls?
Out of fear, shame, guilt, grief and questions about the future.
Our walls are different, of course. We hide behind walls you can’t touch or tear down with a wrecking ball.
We hide behind walls that are harder to see . . . and harder to destroy.
Some of us hide behind
our social position
or our money
or our profession
or our education.
Some of us think that
if we use big words,
if we surround ourselves with enough things,
if we wrap ourselves in smugness, maybe they won’t see that we are
or unsure of ourselves.
Some of us think that if we hide behind
If we stay busy enough, if we sacrifice ourselves to “taking care of business,” maybe they won’t see that we are filled with shame or sadness.
Or maybe we won’t even have time to see it ourselves.
Some of us even hide behind our vulnerability. We tell people (and convince ourselves)
that we are victims,
or that we aren’t good enough,
or that we can’t,
or that we are helpless.
And maybe no one, no one, will notice that we are afraid
to take a chance,
to take a risk.
Friends, Whichever wall we hide behind, whatever we hide from, we are cut off from the world, shut up in the locked room, by our own choice.
We are unable to reach out or be reached.
Except . . .and this is a really big exception
There is someone who walks through walls.
There is someone who just cannot be shut out,
no matter how thick the walls,
no matter how strong the locks.
And furthermore, That someone won’t give up and go away, no matter how long we insist on hiding, no matter how determined we are in our isolation.
The disciples were hiding on that first Easter Sunday and Jesus came to them despite the locked door and the thick walls.
He breathed on them the Holy Spirit and gave them peace and power: power to forgive sins; peace to face an unforgiving world.
And a week later . . . they were still hiding, still behind the thick walls and the shut door.
So Jesus came again.
And friends – here’s the amazing thing – I have no doubt he would have kept on coming
again and again and again, however many times it took, however thick the walls.
Why do I have no doubt, because he keeps coming to me, walking through whatever walls I erect, unlocking my locked doors, and meeting me in my hiding places.
And I have no doubt, because I’ve seen him come to others in the same way, again and again and again.
Even when you are determined to shut everyone out, Jesus finds a way in . . . and he shows you his wounds, and leads you to reach out and touch him, and heals your doubt,
and relieves your fear, and covers your shame, and forgives your guilt.
No matter how thick the walls you build.
Thanks be to God AMEN