Fear turned into joy

Beloved in Christ,

Recently I’ve been using this space to reflect on the Collect for the week but I want to go in a different direction today. I want to take us back to the first post-Resurrection gathering of the church. As John recalls it:

“On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

The first post-Resurrection gathering of the church was a few friends of Jesus huddled together, doors locked from the inside. Because they were afraid.

Fear. It seems there’s lots of that going around these days and for different reasons. Some of us might fear contracting Covid even if we ourselves are fully vaccinated. Some of us might fear never ending policies and restrictions and the slow creep of government over-reach and the possibility of an increasingly segregated society. 

And you know what? None of this fear should be dismissed out-of-hand or laughed off. In fact, some of it is entirely justifiable. People continue to be hospitalised and die as a result of contracting Covid. Governments can and do overreach (is Australia OK?). This is serious stuff.

At the same time, the Lord has given us the capacity to reason and invites us to do so (“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord,” Isaiah 1:18). Statistics show that Covid is indeed a very serious diagnosis for some people but a significantly less serious diagnosis for most people. Furthermore, statistics show that the risk to you personally notably decreases if you are fully vaccinated.

Likewise, while government overreach and it’s impact on Charter protected rights and freedoms is a serious and live question for many, one may reasonably ask whether a democratic, constitutional monarchy such as Canada is genuinely on the precipice of being transformed into a tyrannical dictatorship akin to the CCP in China? Even if it’s possible, is it probable or reasonable to believe?

So, to re-cap: We are living in a time marked by fear and uncertainty. This fear is not unwarranted. And finally, it can be mitigated by reason. But I want to take it further. By way of returning to the text with which we began.

“On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

The disciples were fearful and for good reason! They had witnessed the arrest and shameful execution of their friend and teacher. Maybe they would be next. And so they huddled up and locked the doors.

But then the risen Jesus showed up and revealed himself to them. Look at what he said and did. He stood among them. Immoveable. The rock of their faith. He said, “Peace be with you!” Peace. God’s peace. God’s righteousness and salvation planted here on the earth. In Jesus. Among them. He showed them his hands and side. His wounds. The marks of his love. It is really he.

And the disciples were overjoyed.

Sometimes it is tempting for Christians to want to lock the doors from the inside and huddle away together for fear of [fill in the blank]. That’s understandable. I get it. And yet it is just here that the risen Lord meets us! He is standing our midst! He is speaking a word of divine peace! He is showing us, offering us, his wounds in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!

What difference would it make if together we could discern this? How might our fear begin to dissipate and be transformed into joy by his presence?

JRT+

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