EASTER Makes All the Difference – No More Hiding Behind Closed Doors

There’s news today. Here it is. After what we saw and heard last Sunday, nothing’s ever gonna be the same again! EASTER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. God has raised up Jesus from the dead. As a result, there’s no more living, no more hiding behind closed doors. The earliest disciples got that word in the most startling way: Jesus entering in, locked doors or no. Hiding or no. Fear or no. You’ve likely heard it all before. And we’ve lifted it again today. Now the question is: will you take this word and live by it? Will you open the doors of your heart so Easter can make all the difference for you?

Hiding. It’s so human. So primal. So seemingly innocent, and yet, so sinfully sinister, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane. Behold (blanket) the earliest and most universal play toy of our species. Talk with the anthropologists, travel the world, or just ask mom and dad or grandma. The oldest and most widely experienced games on this globe, and in most of our lives are these: peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek, in 1000 x 1000 variations. Giggles, squeals of delight, loving laughter. The almost wet-your-pants anticipation (can we say that in church) of a little kid on the cusp of being found. The reveling in revelation at the great reveal. But as with almost every human delight, there is a dark side here, too. There is a sad, sad saga. The first evidence to God of human sin is this. Adam and Eve hide from God! (We’re still at it.) One way of interpreting the entire of the Bible? It’s the story, from Genesis to Jesus, of a series of events in which Israel distances or hides from the Lord, only to have God some seeking after her. (For the Bible scholars in our crew, Joseph’s brothers, David, Elijah, and Jonah could say, amen!) But no running, no hiding compares with the disciples’ when they flee from Jesus through Gethsemane’s garden gate. They leave the Lord to face the cross alone. Sorry to say, sin and sorrow, fear and folly, doubt and darkness are all beneath the blanket. And all of us have a hand on at least one corner. We hide from ourselves and our own shortcomings. We hide from those we love the things with which we struggle; we hide from our Maker the mess we have become. All this, until EASTER comes to us!

So here comes Easter. Jesus resurrected bursts (passes) through the doors of the upper room. Here is his message. “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I now send you.” And then, get this, he breathes on them his own resurrection breath. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says. (Now breath and spirit are the same word for these folks. It’s like the Risen Christ is saying, “Before the cross, I loved you so much, you took my breath away. But now, after the cross and the grave, I give my breath away. And I give it… to you! Here it is, the Holy Breath, the Holy Spirit!”) “So now,” says Christ, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” I’m sure all this is hard for these sinners (we’ll later call saints) to believe. After all, consider what they’re doing here. They’re hiding! Let’s talk about that.

Scripture tells us clearly they are hiding from the threats and fears (the authorities) outside those locked doors. But also – and like us – they’re hiding from things inside and between them. Like Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve in the bushes, they’ve gotta deal with the sin inside them. Can’t you see Peter off in a shadowed corner? He’s dealing with denying Jesus 3 times. Matthew’s there, the former tax collector we expected to know how to negotiate with the powers that be. He’s devastated. ‘Has to deal with this. He ran like the rest. Imagine the Zebedee brothers. 72 hours ago: arguing over who comes highest with Jesus. Now they’re at their lowest, having failed him altogether. That dim-lit room shrouds them like a hiding-blanket. But this is no child’s game. The object is to keep the light from falling on what they have done, and not, for Jesus’ sake. As best they can, they hide it from themselves, shrink from it with one another, and would keep the world entirely at bay.

You and I, we come here every week (at least some of us). We pray aloud, we read and listen, sing hymns, laugh, cry a little, shake hands, leave. But much of the time, we remain in hiding, like those upper room refugees from the cross. We don’t want to talk about what we feel down deep inside about ourselves. ‘Where and why we’re disappointed in ourselves. Ashamed. Not worthy. Not faithful. Undeserving. We’re not gonna share here what we keep hidden from our wives or husbands or kids or parents. We’re all upper roomers to some degree. STILL, Jesus comes to us. Doors or not. He says to us what he says to them. “No need to hide! Not anymore. Whatever the burden you are carrying, I’m here to pour out my peace on it. And on you. You can’t bolt me out of coming from the grave itself to tell you the cross was worth it for your sake! You need not hide from yourself any more. I have just come from canceling your very own unworthiness.” It doesn’t matter whether you quaffed it from a bottle, bottled it up in unspeakable anger, disappointment or resentment; or masked it in pretending you’re better than anybody else, or worse, that you really just don’t care. Let Jesus come into any room, upper or other (even here), where people are hiding from themselves, and the Risen Christ will offer peace, born of his Spirit, breathed out on us.

How I wish our only hiding were child’s play. Not so. We hide from those we love the things with which we struggle. It breaks apart our families, our churches, our communities. No accident the Easter Jesus commissions us to forgive. About his last words before the cross were these. “Love one another as I love you. That’s how folks can tell you belong to me.” Among his 1st words up from the grave, “Forgive and I’ll stick with you. Don’t, and the sin will stick – with you and on the other.” Forgiveness binds us together. UNforgiveness drives and keeps us apart. Our Easter Jesus knows the disciples will have to give up hiding from each other about the sins among them. Peter’s denial will have to be dealt with inside the community of faith. (He’s forgiven by Jesus on the shoreline with the disciples present.) John will need to ask where the others were while he alone was at the cross. You get the idea. I counsel couples and families every year who hide what hurts ‘til it divides them. Is your house like that? The hidden is the hardest to forgive. Churches are infamous for putting their “stuff” in a sack (who doesn’t like who, or like what) until there’s no hiding-room left. And then, it all gets dumped at once some day. Even Jesus has difficulty with the aftermath. So much to forgive, so hard to reconcile. So the Easter Jesus barges through locked doors to unlock the hiding that burdens hearts. It’s worth remembering: Christ Risen offers his peace to unlock our pardon.

Easter comes to the Marys in the morning, we heard last Sunday. But it comes to the disciples, and to us too, I think, when the doors are defeated and our hiding gives way to God’s seeking in Jesus Christ. Now as then, every disciple and would-be holds back. We blanket from God the “baddest” of the bad in us, the “maddest” of the mad, the “saddest” of the sad, the darkest of the doubt. I could prolong this message with illustrations, but you already know one or more. Right inside you! Not a soul in this room isn’t holding back some chamber of the heart from God. I may not know yours, but you do; and I surely know mine. I want to invite you today to give it to Jesus, knowing he’ll get up from the grave, and even pass through your own locked doors to accept it. After all, he will offer to have Thomas touch the wounds the Doubter asks to see and feel. What do you imagine he will offer you? For the sake of God, the Easter Jesus will hide nothing from those who would love him. And he would have us hide nothing from the God who stands ready to forgive everything.

Friends, nothing’s ever gonna be the same again!

EASTER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.No more hiding behind closed doors.

From ourselves. Our loves.

Our God in Christ Jesus.

If you want to stop hiding, you might want to come to the altar and be open. And you might want to be opened as we sing our closing hymn, The Day of Resurrection. Why, today could be that day… for you!

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