A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 11 April 2010 by the Rev. Dr. K.C. Abraham. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 35:3-10 and John 20:19-23.
According to the Church calendar we are still in the season of Easter. The appearance of the Risen Lord changed the course of Christian faith. Disciples were a frightened and disillusioned lot at the time of Jesus’ death. They had lost all the hope. Jesus movement would have come to an end with the death of Jesus and the disheartened bunch of his followers. The passage read to us Jn. 20:19-23, describes the sad state of the disciples. They were behind a closed door Let us lift up this image for our consideration: THE CLOSED DOOR We are told that the disciples were frightened. The doors were closed for the fear of Jews(v 19). They had lost all hope and preferred to be within closed door. But the Risen Lord stepped into the closed door and the disciples were assured of Peace and He breathed on them the Holy Spirit.
The closed door experience is common to us in the modern world. People prefer to close in on themselves either for the fear of the other or for the sake of a sense of security. What are some of the closed door experiences in our midst?
First, We see closed door experience in the attitude and actions of dictators, and other power mongers, especially when they are afraid of dissent or criticism. They are often surrounded by “yes” men and cronies and are insulated from realities. In the N.T we read about Herod the king. When he heard about the birth of a ‘king of Jews”, he was agitated and troubled . He was threatened . In order to eliminate all any possible threat to his position and to safeguard absolute power he ordered a massacre of all baby boys born at the time.
This kind of closed door experience is not only true about kings and rulers, but al of us when we become eager to safeguard our own position and power at the expense of others we too are in “closed doors”. Our sense of security and power blinds to the needs of others.
Me and my family or me and my community/caste – that is all we are concerned about. To secure our rights and privileges wewill do anything.
Second, there are closed door experience created by external powers and systems that curtail our freedom.
We are told that the disciples were in closed doors for the fear of Jews—even Romans. In the OT we re told about the experience of the Israelites . They were forced into closed door experience by Pharaoh. Today our economic and social structures are such that we tend to exist in closed door. Those of us who live in high- rising apartments feel secure behind closed doors. We want ourselves to be protected from criminals. We presume that our security system keeps the anti-social elements at bay. Then on the outside we have forced the poor to stay in slums. They are under closed door. Their movements are restricted and they are under surveillance by the police. Some of us live in caste system that is socially and culturally determined closed doors. How important for us to realize that the Risen Lord breaks open these culturally and socially shaped closed door. The Risen Lord is freedom. When we confine ourselves to protective barriers the Risen Lord comes from the other side and breaks them open.
Third, there is kind of closed door that Apostle Paul speaks of in his epistles: It is the closed door of self-righteousness or self –satisfied ego.
You are so convinced about your own virtue and grandeur, that you don’t need to listen to any other not even God. They are always sure that they are right and others are wrong. We have some of them in the Church; they are a great obstacle to change.
The self enclosed existence that does not recognize the “other”—those who are different, the weak and the handicapped – is a closed door experience. Modern life is shaped by the fear and suspicion of the other. In US today, an Islam is targeted as a potential terrorist. To live with such fear of the other is an inhuman form of existence. The Risen Lord breaks into the self-enclosed existence
How does the Risen Lord breaks open our closed door?
The second symbol in the passage helps us to understand it. The Risen Lord slipped into the closed door showing “ his hands and his side”. The reference here is clearly to the marks of crucifixion. When we are confronted by the self-sacrificing love of the Lord, our fears and suspicions are removed. “Perfect love cast out all fears” says Apostle John.
The Risen Lord declared “peace”. It is not peace of non-involvement; it is peace in and through facing the realities. Many people use religious faith to build “comfort zones”. The Churches in this sense can be closed doors, forgetting all our worries and distractions. We don’t want to be disturbed by the problems and needs of people outside> Peace of the Risen Lord comes with a call to involve in the situation around with love. The marks of the Risen Lord are the marks of deep love. The risen Lord gives us courage to face the “other”. Our closed door is broken open so that we may experience a new freedom and love. .That is our personal experience too.
We conclude with a personal testimoney:
The year was 1977. I was in charge of a fairly large congregation in the city of Bangalore. A baby girl was born to me and my wife She took ill shortly after her birth. It was turned out to be an infection: meningitis. It caused sever damage to her brain. A traumatic experience we asked” God, ‘why have done this to us? We were thankful that her life was spared. But to look after a mentally challenged child was not easy. We tried to understand the meaning of it all. Our experience took us closer to several parents who have the responsibility of taking care of similar children. We prayed like everyone else in similar situation for healing. God has not granted us miraculous healing, but a greater miracle happened. We were led to provide a home for such children.: Liza’s Home . There are about twenty people for whom I and my wife are papa and mamma. Some of them like our daughter have no speech, some find it difficult to move around without assistance . They are from different religions. But they live together; a community of love. When people come to our Home we tell them that the members of our community have no great skills an d not good at speaking any language .But they excel in one thing : they are proficient in God’s language –LOVE. God does not speak Hebrew or Greek; Chinese or Indian.! God knows only one language and our children seem to have excelled in it. In their embrace, in their kisses and in their songs and dances they live out God. They gather together to praise God. When we break the bread and share the broken bread we say BROKEN GOD IN THE MIDST OF BROKEN PEOPLE. This is RESURRECTION for us. A Community of broken people united in love. What else is Resurrection?