Jesus, No Respecter of Locked Doors

Jesus is no respecter of locked doors.

That was the heart of the fantastic sermon that our homiletics professor, Sam Gilmore, preached this morning in chapel. This weekend, we welcomed to Wartburg a group of prospective students who are discerning a call to public ministry, and listening for how God might be calling them to use their gifts in the church and the world in this moment in their lives.

The text that was chosen for this Sunday, the closing worship of the event, was John 20:19-23, the post-resurrection episode when Jesus appears among his disciples, who are still cowed in fear behind a locked door, in spite of being told the good news of the resurrection by Mary Magdalene earlier in the day. Amidst their angst, doubt, and despair, Jesus comes among them and breathes his peace upon them, throwing open the doors in the process, and calling them out into the world–transforming their fear into confidence, and their despair into hope.

In the sermon, Sam pointed out how easy it is to see ourselves in this scene with Jesus: not only cowering and afraid behind our own locked doors, but also locking others behind doors of our own misconceptions and misunderstandings, afraid to see and engage them for who they are. She reminded us that the peace that Jesus breathed into his disciples, the peace he breathes into us, is not like the superficial, status-quo peace that the world so often offers, which is an avoidance of conflict, an avoidance of truth-telling, and an avoidance of discomfort. Instead, Jesus’ peace is both transformative and empowering, compelling us to fling wide our locked doors and step out into the world to share the good news of the God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness wherever and however God is calling us, with all those we meet–and especially with those who continue to hide in fear behind their own locked doors.

I was really moved by the sermon, because it was such a persuasive and powerful reminder of what awaits us in the celebration of the resurrection: new life now, new hope for the future, reconcilation with others, and victory over the worst that the world can throw at us. These treasures, gifts of Jesus’ own life and ministry, are now ours, because Christ has breathed the Holy Spirit into us. We are not alone.

This was true of course for the disciples, who did, finally, leaved their locked room and go out into the world, sharing the good news, and it is true for us as well.

Jesus is no respecter of locked doors.

Jesus is not discouraged by our fears, he is not repelled by our sinfulness, and he is not daunted by all the world throws at him–he knows sin, death and the forces of evil have no power over him; and in him, they have no power over us, either. There is no need to hide. In the resurrection, the gates of hell have been blown open, and the locks on the door have been broken. It is a new day, and we are invited to step into it.

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