Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Lock the doors! They are out there. You know who I mean…them. The ones not like us. Lock the doors! They might come in! We are afraid of what they might do to us, what they might say to us. Lock the doors! It’s a scary world out there. So let’s keep them out.
Who’s them? Well, anybody that we fear. For the first disciples of Jesus, it was the people of Jerusalem. The disciples couldn’t trust them. They were afraid. So they were hiding behind locked doors. Keeping them out. Keeping themselves safe.
So the disciples think they’re safe. They think they’ll be alright there behind the locked doors. The others are outside, they’re inside. It’s all just hunky-dory. They think to themselves that when the storm blows over, they’ll sneak out of town and go back to their old lives.
But the tragedy, the real sinister thing going on, is that the disciples have locked themselves in. Their fear and their anxiety have taken over. The disciples thought they were for keeping the others out. But in reality, the locks on the doors are keeping those scared, anxious ridden disciples in. They’re stuck.
And then comes Jesus. Just as the risen Lord bursts the gates of death, the risen Lord bursts through the locks the disciples have put on the doors. He comes in and tells them to do the very thing they fear so much. Jesus commands them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Sending. In Greek, the word for send is “apostle.” Jesus is turning his followers, his disciples, into his apostles. Jesus is sending them out. He’s taking away the locks on the doors and kicking them out in that scary world. Jesus is sending them to the very people they fear.
Jesus is giving his disciples a difficult, difficult task. If those frightened followers of Jesus want to continue being disciples of Jesus, they have to become apostles. That is, if they want to know Jesus, they have to be missionaries. There is no getting around it. They can’t stay in a locked room if they want to be followers of Jesus. They have to unlock the doors and go out there. To where they are.
And here we sit, cozy and safe on this Sunday morning. The doors are closed behind us. The people that we fear – the naysayers, the punks, the others – they are out there. The danger is thinking that if we are here with each other, holding on to each other, then we’ll be safe. We’ll be fine.
But then the risen Lord busts down the door. Jesus comes to us in the bread and the wine here, and the words that he gave to his disciples he gives us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus is not asking us to be his apostles. He is commanding us to be his apostles. To go. To be missionaries. To be sent. To unlock the doors and go to where they are.
This is a critical lesson for the church of our time. Everywhere we look, we see churches shutting themselves in. Pastors tell their congregation to be afraid. Churches lock themselves in, guarding themselves from anybody who looks or thinks differently. Christians lock up their hearts, scared of what the culture “out there” may bring to them. We sit and we pray behind our locked doors because it’s a scary world out there. Where they are.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple saw this in his own day in the 1940s. He saw churches that had convinced themselves that their only purpose of existence was to gather on Sunday mornings. He saw churches closing in on themselves, locking the doors, and trying to be “spiritual.” He saw a generation of Christians who were not apostles. So William Temple wrote these stunning words:
“A church which ceases to be missionary will not be, and cannot rightly expect to be, ‘spiritual.’” A church that is content to stay behind its locked doors is no church at all. A community of Christians that only does pious prayers and beautiful liturgy is not a community of Christians. A Church, to be a church, must always be unlocking the doors and stepping outside. A Christian, to be a follower of Jesus, has to be a missionary. This means that Jesus is sending you, Jesus is making you into an apostle, a missionary.
So many times, when we hear the word “missionary” we think about folks who go off to China or Africa to preach to communists or heathens. And yes, those missionaries are apostles, in that they have unlocked their fearful hearts and stepped out because Jesus told them to. But being an apostle of Jesus does not require a passport or an international flight.
And we already see this at Holy Comforter. In July, our youth are going on a mission trip to Bastrop. Along with youth from across the Diocese of Texas, they will be replanting the forests devastated by the wildfires two years ago. We are sending them out, they are going out for Jesus, and in the name of Holy Comforter, to do good work in the world.
If we want our children and youth to grow up into devoted Christians, we need to send them out of the church. We need to unlock the doors. And honestly, I pray that our youth are afraid. I hope they worry about the mission trip because they’ve never planted a tree before. I hope they’re afraid of the people they will meet and work with on this mission trip. I hope they are scared now, so that when they’re on the mission trip God can show them ways to conquer their fears. My prayer is that God takes our youth, fear and all, and boots them out there. On a mission. And because they’re missionaries, when they return, they’ll be more spiritual.
Of course, not everybody can go on this mission trip. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be missionaries with our youth. Our youth will need help in the coming months before we go to Bastrop. They will need prayers. They will need adults sponsors. They will need our encouragement. To be spiritual missionaries, our youth need spiritual supporters.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Yes, really, you. Jesus is sending you out there, to where they are. To the people who look different, to the people who think differently, to the naysayers, the punks.
The locks on our doors – the locks of fear, prejudice, anxiety – Jesus is breaking them down. Because as long as we think we are keeping them locked out, we are really just keeping ourselves locked in. Do not lull yourself into thinking that you can be a spiritual person without being a missionary. Jesus is sending you, even you, out there, to where they are.
As we continue celebrating Easter for the next six weeks, I am calling of all of you to find your mission field. Your mission field may not look like the forests of Bastrop. Your mission field may not look like a parking lot during Drive-Thru Ashes. Your mission field may be your own kitchen table. Your mission field may be Facebook. Your mission field may be Starbucks. Your mission field may be your favorite tattoo parlor. Wherever it is – your mission field is beyond these locked doors. So go there. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Go, out there, into your mission field, and proclaim the love of God.
Dear Lord, we pray, send us. Break down the doors that lock us in. Dear Lord, we pray, make us apostles.