At exactly 4:18 last Monday morning (according to the digital clock by the bed), I awoke in a cold sweat feeling very anxious. I couldn’t sleep because:
- We don’t have a replacement for Liz
- We have a summer intern coming in
- Session meets this Wednesday
- Endowment meets in a matter of weeks
- A sacred space team to envision enhancing this worship space is soon meeting
- Special programs and celebrations and events and
- Stanford lost its big lacrosse game and Heights hasn’t won a game yet…
In short, at 4:18 last Monday morning, as Deanne slept peacefully and Leo the dog snored away in his bed, the end of the world as I know it was happening!
To think that less than 24 hours ago we had just celebrated an absolutely stupendous Easter.
- Christ is risen! He has risen indeed!
- The weather couldn’t have been better.
- We had 50 at the 9:00 service.
- We had almost 500 at the 11:00 service.
“Nothing to fear,” I preached. “Easter calls us to action, gives us new energy and hope, love, laughter and vision.”
And I believe it all.
And yet at 4:18 a.m. the morning after – that joy was back in the shroud of early morning darkness, the stone was rolling back, the body was back in the tomb. The “dementers” of Harry Potter were swooping down to suck all the life out of me.
I guess it is inevitable – the emotional letdown. Easter is over….now what?
The “So What?” of Easter day became the “Now What?” of 4:18 a.m.
Not unlike, really what happened to the disciples and to Thomas on the evening of Easter day – when they received reports that Mary had seen the Lord. Everything they had been told was coming true…and where were they?
Shut up in an upstairs room. Locked away in fear of the Jews (they should have been more fearful of the Romans – because the Temple leaders couldn’t kill you but the Romans would in a heartbeat).The disciples – these Jesus followers who had heard his teaching and seen his miracles, and been with him – had withdrawn. Pulled back. They had isolated themselves. They fell back into fear, doubting whether the whole thing had ever happened.
They were in the cold sweat of anxiety.
It may not have been 4:18 on a Monday morning, but what the disciples were experiencing sounds to me like a classic case of “letdown blues.” Emotionally it’s hard to sustain the “high.” Caught up in the news, the moment, the joy….inevitably you crash, hard.
At least Thomas wasn’t in the locked room. Wherever he was, he wasn’t quite as paralyzed as the others.
So right in the middle of their pity party of paralysis Jesus walks through the door and stands among them and says “Peace!”
Peace. It is going to be alright. I am with you. I am here. You are not alone.
Then what does Jesus say? “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Jesus gives his followers peace… and then Jesus gives them a job to do, a mission, a sending. Go! Don’t stay in a locked room, walk through the open door into life.
Then what does Jesus do? He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gives peace, a mission and power.
Jesus even lets doubting Thomas stick his finger in the holes of his hand and side.
Well, by 5:00 last Monday morning I had calmed down, read a little bit, prayed – recalled all the good things of Easter day – and started to plan what needed to be done and get some order out of the muddle. And while it was not as dramatic as the disciple’s experience, I found a place of peace, a sense of mission, and a power to envision what needed to be done. I even went back to sleep for an hour!
This, I believe, is instructive. For inevitably you and I will go through peaks and valleys. Elation and deflation. After big events there’s usually a letdown.
And the “So what?” of our high becomes the “Now what?” of our low.
In the “Now what?” of Easter we have some work to do together.
It is not time to be withdrawn and isolated: It is time to get our hands dirty in the garden, to throw open the doors tonight to Mother Willie-Mae Wright and let everybody in.
It is not time to be fearful: It is time to do something imaginative and fun, like re-imagining this worship space and how to make it even more flexible, hospitable and holy.
It is not time to doubt: It is time to trust. God has brought us safe thus far. And God will lead us home.
We will be all right without Clover. We will cope without Liz (for a time!)
There are still people to feed, and the unloved to love. There is bread to be broken and fellowship to be shared. There are new members to welcome and include. There is a big world outside these walls that needs to hear good news preached instead of the evil cluttering the airwaves.
As Bishop Desmond Tutu writes:
Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death… Victory is ours, victory is ours through God who loves us. Victory is ours, victory is ours, through God who loves us.
We gather behind these walls seeking the peace of Christ and let me tell you, “You have it!” Just for the taking! So accept the gift. Breathe deeply.
You can’t hide from Jesus Christ. In your anxiety and letdown and worry and fear, Jesus Christ will find you and offer you his peace – the peace that is beyond our understanding, the peace that the world can neither give nor take away, the peace of knowing that you are loved just as you are, gifted just in the way you are.
Jesus Christ sends you, sends us, out. This space is not a fortress but a launching pad!
Jesus Christ breathes on you, the breath of life, the power of the Spirit. Receive it!
The American theologian Howard Thurman, who was so influential to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a marvelous verse that we often recite after Christmas:
When the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
… the work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to teach the nations, to bring Christ to all,
to make music in the heart!
I want to claim this now as an Easter exhortation:
After the cross is taken off the lawn,
and the Easter baskets are put away,
and the jelly beans are consumed,
and the anxiety comes at 4:18 a.m.,
our call is the same:
To find the lost, heal the broken,
feed the hungry, release the prisoner,
teach the nations, bring Christ to all –
and perhaps most of all –
MAKE MUSIC IN THE HEART!
Come on, let’s move from this place!
We have Christ’s peace, we have Christ’s blessing, we have Christ’s charge, we have Christ’s spirit and power. What’s not to like?!
He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!