I’m sure you can see why I wanted to share this video with you. Rev. Casey Wait does such a beautiful job embodying the story. What really got to me were the pauses in her storytelling. Jesus said “Peace be with you,” and then she paused for that to sink in—or for it to sink in how absurd the statement was, given their circumstances. They had seen Jesus die. Then some of them had seen the empty tomb, but they didn’t know what to make of that. Mary said she had seen Jesus, but who believes hysterical women? They’re still afraid of the leaders who plotted Jesus’ death, afraid they too will be targets. So the disciples are hiding together because the outside world is dangerous, and suddenly Jesus is right there among them—in spite of the locked door, in spite of the fact that, you know, he had died! A formerly dead man appears in the middle of their locked room, in the middle of their crisis, in the middle of their fear, and says, “Peace be with you?” I’m pretty sure what they were feeling was not peace.
Which is, of course, why he said it. Because they didn’t have any. They were not at peace. They did not have hope. They were isolated and afraid and into that space Jesus appeared. Into that space Jesus brought peace.
Some of you may be thinking, “I wish he’d do it now!”
I read an article this week written by a pastor for other pastors. She said she was worried about pastors because, in her words, “We will lack the catharsis of Holy Week. We won’t have it because on Easter Sunday, and then again on Easter Monday, and perhaps all the forty* Easter days to follow, we will wake up and still be in the tomb.” She continued: “Holy Week for pastors feels like a long march to the tomb. And while we lead congregations into the Resurrection on Easter, WE do not usually feel resurrected until Easter Monday. Or maybe Easter Tuesday, because Easter Monday is like sleeping off the Holy Week hangover. But the frantic and also emotionally and spiritually draining journey of Holy Week is very cathartic for us. We get to expend all the love and the pain and the anxiety and the joy of the prior year in that week. Whether we admit it or not, it is a clearing of the decks. Lent has helped lead us into that, but Holy Week really allows us all the freedom to express the highs and lows of a life following Christ. We hope our people experience that clearing too, but we know we will. And it prepares us for the next 12 months of . . . leading a church.” She goes on to talk about how all this was different this year, but then she says, “Then Monday will come. And instead of the catharsis of surviving Holy Week, we will instead face the reality that we are still cooped up. We are still trapped in this new reality. We face who knows how many weeks of giving up again. It is like Lent is repeating. Like Easter didn’t count for anything. Easter didn’t change anything. We are still facing death. And we are still away from our people. . . . Let’s acknowledge that we still need Easter Monday. But maybe instead of needing it to rest and recover, we need it for weeping and gnashing of teeth. We need the space to name for ourselves that this is not how we envisioned serving Christ. And we do not need to rescue it so quickly by pointing out all the new ways we can share the Gospel, but instead give the space for the anger. Give the space for the sadness. Give the space for the fear. Give the space for the exhaustion. Give the space for the tears.”
She named it, didn’t she? Not just for pastors, but for all of us. I heard wonderful comments about last week’s service, and I’m so glad if it met your needs. But nothing I could say would change the fact that Easter came and went, and it still feels like we’re in Lent!
The other night I was in a Zoom meeting with a small group of people, and one person broke down and admitted how she was feeling. That gave me permission to admit how I was feeling, too, and then to give in to the full expression of those feelings after our meeting was over. The honesty was good for both of us. But honesty is hard. We have to let down our guard, have to admit our vulnerabilities, have to let go of the façade that we have our act together. But we can’t be healed unless we do.
That’s what Thomas did. He was honest about how he was feeling. He didn’t pretend to believe what he was “supposed to” believe. He was honest about naming what he needed. In Rev. Casey Wait’s telling of this story, she represented Thomas so well. When she said that the disciples told Thomas “We have seen the Lord,” before she gives Thomas’s answer, she looks sideways, then down, then up, then takes a breath and lets it out before backing away and saying, “No, unless I see the mark of the nails, I will not believe.” I wish we didn’t call him “Doubting Thomas.” I wish we called him “Honest Thomas.” It was his honesty that allowed him to be made well. Amazing things can happen when we’re honest.
My daughter graciously agreed to sing this song with me. It’s called “If We’re Honest.”
Minister and writer Maren Tirabbasi wrote this poem called The Blessing of Thomas (…or how to prove that online worship has some resurrection verification)
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29b)
Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him this eastertide,
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.
Blessed are those who don’t need a choir
to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.
Blessed are those who really touch
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.
But also blessed is the Thomas
in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else,
and who wants to feel
not Jesus long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.
Blessed is the Thomas in all of us
who lives with doubts and hopes,
and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.
So no matter how you’re feeling, whether you have peace by the bucketful or your thimble of peace has a hole in it, be honest—with God, with another human being, with yourself. Mercy’s waiting on the other side. And so is the risen Christ.