The Second Sunday of Easter (B), April 15, 2012

A Reading from the of Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35)


Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.



Psalm 133


1Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *

when brethren live together in unity!

2It is like fine oil upon the head *

that runs down upon the beard,

3Upon the beard of Aaron, *

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

4It is like the dew of Hermon *

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5For there the Lord has ordained the blessing: *

life for evermore.



A Reading from the First Letter John (1:1-2:2)


We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.



The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (20:19-31)


When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger . here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.





by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer


It was still Easter day.  That morning, Peter and the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” had been to Jesus’ tomb and had returned to the house where the other disciples had gathered.  They amazed them all with their description of what they had found there and of what they had not found.  A bit later, Mary Magdalene had come rushing in to tell them that she had actually seen Jesus: that he had been raised from the dead and had spoken to her.  No one knew exactly what to make of it all.

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By now it was evening.  The disciples were still in the house; but, by now, they had locked the doors of the house out of fear.  They had locked themselves in and, they hoped, had locked everyone else out.

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That, in itself, is not so unusual.  Locked doors are a constant part of our lives.  After we left school or work this past week, somebody carefully locked all the doors of those facilities.  Before you left home this morning, you locked the doors of your house.   And before we leave here this afternoon, we will be sure to lock the doors of this place of worship and of our Community Building a well as the doors in between.  Physical locked doors, it seems, are a necessary part of our lives.

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But there are other locked doors in our lives as well.  They may not be physical doors, but they are just as clearly ways of keeping ourselves in and other people out, of keeping the two of us separate.  And most of these locked doors are doors of our own making, doors of our own locking.

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At times in life, for example, we lock the virtual doors between ourselves and one other person.  The reason varies.  It may have been the result of an argument between the two of us.  It may be a reaction to a real or perceived slight from that person.  Or it may have been the conclusion to a growing conflict between the two of us, one which had finally reached a point where we decided to break off all contact.  Whatever the precipitating events, we somehow came to the conclusion that we needed a protective barrier between us and them.  We set up a virtual, yet very real, locked door to shut them out of our lives.  Our relationship was apparently at an end.

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At other times, people create locked doors in an attempt to separate themselves from entire groups of people.   The ongoing investigation in Florida into the shooting of Trayvon Martin, allegedly by George Zimmerman, illustrates the barriers, the locked doors, that people sometimes build to separate themselves from people who appear to be different from them in some way.  As in this case, the locking of doors can sometimes have deadly consequences.

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Sadly, even in churches there are some who choose to look the doors between themselves and those who happen to disagree with them: those who may have a different opinion or viewpoint on issues facing the church.   We were reminded of that reality over the past week as well, as the case of seven Episcopal churches in Virginia was finally settled by an appeals court.  Those buildings had been taken over by groups of former Episcopalians who refused to live in communion with those in the church who held views on human sexuality and on the interpretation of scripture that differed from their own.  They essentially built and locked doors between themselves and the rest of the church, affiliating instead with the Anglican Church in Nigeria (until that association fell apart as well).

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In all aspects of human life, people – as individuals, as groups, and even sometimes as parts of the church – choose to build and lock doors between themselves and others, trying to keep themselves separated from those with whom they disagree or from whom they think they are somehow different.

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But eventually, people discover two very important things about those virtual locked doors that we create.  First of all, they find that, by locking other people out, they necessarily lock themselves in; they become prisoners of their own making.  But secondly, people sometimes come to realize one very important limit to the effectiveness of those locked doors: no matter how strong the doors, no matter how sturdy the locks, they cannot keep God out.

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“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Despite the disciples’ best efforts, they could not keep everyone else out of the room in which they had locked themselves.

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And despite our best efforts, we cannot keep everyone else out either.  God has a way of coming into those places in life in which we try to isolate ourselves.  There God brings us the gift of peace; but there God also calls into question the fact that we have created and locked those doors in the first place.  God challenges the necessity of those locked doors.  Don’t you just hate it when God does that, when God asks the questions that we would rather not answer?  And often those answers are ones that we have known all along but have tried to avoid.

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There is an old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.”   Like locks, fences can serve to keep people apart from each other.  But in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” he challenges the wisdom of that saying.  He notes that “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”: something that is always at work making holes in it, working to tear it down.   He then goes on to reflect:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

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I suspect that the poet may have realized that he had his image almost right, but chose to leave it as it was.  Instead of “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” the fuller truth is “Someone there is who doesn’t love a wall.”  And we know who that “Someone” is.

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It is the same Someone who walked right through the walls and the locked doors behind which the disciples had enclosed themselves on that first Easter Day, the same Someone who can walk also through the locked doors that we construct between ourselves and others.  And, in doing so, he can bring forth new possibilities that we had not seen, that we had not imagined: possibilities for reconciliation and hope and new life.  After all, he knows about bringing new life out of death.  He has already been there and done that.