From the Rector’s Study
Easter II in the upper room
April 19th, 2020 John 20:19-31
We could focus on Doubting Thomas, but instead, today the idea that we are ourselves hiding in the upper room in isolation, with all kinds of fears and concerns. The disciples were afraid of facing the same fate as Jesus, so they had chosen to hide in the upper room.
Jesus comes into the room and says: Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The first idea is that the peace of God in Christ comes to us. We just have to look for it and receive it, and to be open to it.
The second is that we are sent and thus given a task, like Mary being given the task at Easter of telling the disciples that she has seen the Risen Lord, and she goes and does this.
Then there is the troubling part; Jesus giving them the authority to forgive or not forgive.
Maybe this is about forgiving ourselves. We have already discussed this, that the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves. May be this is the gift Jesus is giving the disciples as they hide in the upper room and feel guilt for what they have not done to help Jesus, to forgive themselves.
But there is more to this, as we may not be feeling any particular guilt. This being said, the difficulty we are facing at this time of isolation is the inability to be alone with ourselves. There are normally so many distractions and things we can do to occupy our time, that when they are taken away, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
I am reminded of a time Janet and I were going to our trailer at Lake Consecon. Before we went, I had a conversation with my Spiritual Director, The Rev. Murray Rogers. He said that this was a gift of being in silence without distraction, and just be with God and self. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this for the full few days, and borrowed a pen from Janet, and spent time journaling, and doing other things.I had to find something to actually do.
There is a history in the church of being alone with ourselves and God. I am thinking of the Contemplative orders, monks and nuns who are basically cloistered from the world, and the third and fourth centuries the Desert Fathers and Mothers, who removed themselves from the world to get it touch with it more completely.
There are actually two Anglican Monastic Orders in the Diocese. The nuns of the Sisters of St. John the Divine and monks of the Order of the Holy Cross.
We are in a strange and different time when the isolation is not by choice, and also interact with people out of necessity and risk to self and family. In other words, there are two types of activities which remind me of the story of Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38-42. Most of us are in a sense being asked to be like Mary and stay home and undertake the difficult task of spending a lot of time alone with God and ourselves, when this is so foreign to us, and feeling abnormal. And those who are acting like Martha and taking great risk to self and family to do this.
This is a time to support one another as we see happen with the messages of support and care we see, from many different places. So let us recognize we are able to be like Mary and understand that we can forgive ourselves and in so doing see that we although not perfect are worth being alone with ourselves at this time, as we give thanks to those who are risking to help those in need.
Your may have other thoughts about this, and you can e-mail me if you would like,