Hope from Lockdown.
Thoughts based around John 20:19-23
By Rev John Phillips
I sit here this morning the day after a very unusual Easter Sunday about to start my fifth week of self-isolation and in the fourth week of government ordered lockdown. I am mindful that we are all in the same situation - confined to our houses except for a period of exercise, a journey to work or a visit to the shops. As each week passes the frustration grows but as the death toll from this deadly Corona virus rises, so the fear of what it could do to us rises, should we choose to ignore government instructions.
Being confined to a building is something none of us likes and I daresay those first disciples experienced something more than frustration in that period immediately after the execution of the Lord on a Roman cross. Fear of being the next victims of those same Temple plotters was now gripping them with fear and despondency and they were literally hiding out, cut off from the world outside; the world that they had enjoyed as they walked and talked with their Lord. Suddenly life had become something very different; life was now full of worry, terror even, their lives are seriously at risk. Yet into this seemingly depressing situation enters the resurrected Jesus and what does he announce but words of comfort, ‘Peace be with you’. The peace of Christ has been brought to a desperate situation, Fear can be displaced with courage and despair can be replaced with hope.
Jesus then goes on to commission them to spread this gospel of hope which the resurrection would bring ‘As the father has sent me, so I send you’, and he empowers them with the Holy Spirit. Here is the opportunity of a new beginning being set before them for from out of this place of containment would spring the church and its rapid establishment through the power of the Holy Spirit. These first disciples would experience a new life and a new hope for the future brought to them through the resurrection. This also reminds us that there will be the possibility of a new life and new opportunities for everyone including ourselves after the pandemic Is over.
New opportunities will be presented for the church and we are seeing some of these now in the imaginative way the church is responding to the constrictions of lockdown. Live streaming, social media, virtual discussion groups, different formats of worship are all very encouraging showing that out of difficulty God finds ways of using his people effectively.
We need to acknowledge that this is a period of time when many will feel anxious, isolated from family and friends or fearful of catching the virus, some will be fearing unemployment or may be unemployed already, some will fear financial difficulty. The future may seem to be a great worry to us, but it is important to remember into this despair emerges Jesus. As Archbishop Justin reminded us on Easter Day from his kitchen ‘the resurrection is the foundation of hope for all people and for a better world. We are empowered to life, an abundant life’. Let us never forget that hope that the Resurrection has given us.
Could I close with the final verse of the hymn ‘Now the green blade riseth’ Which was sung in the archbishop’s service for Easter Sunday and reminds us of the hope that we look to from out of our despair. This is what the resurrection brings.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus' touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
The peace of the Lord be with you all.