Easter Unlocked And Opened – A Sermon On John 20:19-31

The Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

By 22Kartika – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Every year I come to this day – the Second Sunday of Easter – and I wonder what difference last Sunday – Easter Sunday – has made. Are our lives and world different because of Easter and, if so, how and in what ways?

Look around. What do you see? Has your life changed? Are you living differently today than you did before Easter?

When I look at my life today it looks a whole lot like it did last Sunday, the week before, and the week before that. And when I look at the world today it looks pretty much the same as before.

Before Easter there was a pandemic. After Easter there’s still a pandemic. Before Easter there was illness and death. After Easter there’s still illness and death. Before Easter there was pain and brokenness in the world. After Easter there’s still pain and brokenness in the world. 

The list of before and after comparisons could go on and on. Things today look a lot like they did before Easter. What do we do with that? 

I know the usual answers. Jesus overcame death. Sins are forgiven. Love prevails. All things are being made new. Alleluia. Christ is risen. 

I get that. And on most days I believe it. I’m just not sure what all that means or looks like on a day to day basis. And I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with that. I think we all do, and I think that’s why every year we come to this day – the Second Sunday of Easter – and hear the same gospel story. Today’s gospel is the same one we heard last year on this day, the year before, and the year before that. It’s the disciples’ story of uncertainty, fear, and struggle with what to do with Jesus’ resurrection. And it’s our story with those things too.

Here’s why I say that:

  • Easter morning, “while it was still dark,” Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb. She saw and spoke with Jesus. He called her by name. She left the garden of resurrection, went to the disciples, and told them, “I have seen the Lord.” 
  • And what did the disciples say and do in response to that good news? Do your remember? Nothing. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t jump up and down and shout for joy. They didn’t say, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” They didn’t give thanks and praise to God. They weren’t filled with courage and hope. They didn’t make radical changes in the way they lived. They didn’t claim for themselves a new life or a new future. Instead, they locked the doors.
  • Apparently, they didn’t do or say anything on Easter day. And if they did, St. John didn’t consider it worth including in his account of the gospel. The next thing we hear after Mary’s good news is that it was the evening of Easter. The disciples were afraid. And they locked the doors of their house.
  • Jesus steps into the midst of their fear. Locked doors cannot keep him out. They only serve to keep the disciples in. “Peace be with you,” he says. He breathes on them. He shares his life with them. He gives them the Holy Sprit. He sends them even as the Father sent him. 
  • And a week later? Nothing has changed. The disciples are in the same house behind the same locked doors. And it’s hard to see or say what difference Jesus’ resurrection has made for any of them.

Jesus is free, but the disciples have imprisoned themselves. The tomb is empty, but the house is full. The stone has been rolled back from Jesus’ tomb, but the doors of the disciples’ lives are closed and locked. And they’re afraid of what’s on the other side of those doors.

That sounds a lot like life today. I wonder what doors of your house you’ve closed and locked. What are you afraid of? And what will it take to unlock the doors of your house?

I’m not asking about the house in which you are social distancing or quarantining. I am asking about the house of your heart, the house of your imagination, the house of your creativity. I want to know about your house of love, your house of compassion and empathy, your house of hope and courage. Tell me about the house of your marriage, the house of your parenting, the house of your forgiving. In what ways have you used or allowed guilt, regret, disappointment, anger, resentment, sorrows and losses, wounds and hurts to lock the doors of your life? What houses your deepest longings and desires? What houses your dreams, delights, and the things that enliven you and make your heart beat faster? What doors need to be unlocked and opened in order for you to live more whole heartedly?

As long as we remain behind the locked doors of our houses nothing will change. The world today will look the same as it did before Easter. Our lives today will look the same as they did before Easter. If today our lives and world look the same as they did before Easter then you and I need to start looking for and unlocking some doors. 

Every time we unlock and open a door in our house we step into our own resurrection. Easter makes a difference. And the Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. 

Easter is Jesus inviting, asking, calling, insisting, and wooing us into life and more life. It means the unattainable is within reach. The impossible is possible. The never before imagined doesn’t sound so crazy. And maybe there really are unicorns everywhere. Easter is Jesus’ promise that there is a future on the other side of our locked doors. But it’s up to you and me to unlock and open those doors. 

Did you notice that in today’s gospel? Jesus did not unlock the doors for the disciples. They would have to do that for themselves, and so do you and I. No one else, not even Jesus, can open the doors you’ve locked. No one else, not even Jesus, can open the doors I’ve locked. That’s for you and me to do. That’s our Easter life, and you and I already hold in our hands the key. 

What doors will you unlock and open today?

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