Nowhere but Somewhere to Hide
Episode 8 – April 15, 2018
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Fruit – “Peace”
Melanie Frade – “I Wont’ Speak”
*”I Won’t Speak” has not been officially released yet, but you can watch this video of Melanie performing her song “Sparrow”.
Two Roads Home – “Nowhere but Somewhere to Hide”
ursidae – “Winter Wanderer”
Reading No. 1
John 20:19-31: Jesus Appears to the Disciples
Read by Alex VanCaeyzeele in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Love for the World
Part of each episode of the Living Presence Podcast will feature a section where we lift up people and places who can use our alliance, our attention and some hope. (If you are from a United Church, this would be similar to “Prayers of the People” or “Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession”).
The idea and our hope are that listeners from all over can send in the people and places they would like to bring to our attention, and I would love it if YOU would consider sending something in to be aired. You can either a) record something with the voice recorder app on your phone and email it to email@example.com OR b) call 289-903-0019 and leave a voicemail OR c) Leave a written comment and I will read it on the air.
THIS WEEK WE LIFT UP:
those affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash
victims of the chemical attack in Syria
children who died in the bus crash in India
Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women
Jennilynn Reed, Mike Grelowski and their respective families and loved ones, after a terrible car crash in Orillia
Ayman Derbali who is still seeking assistance for medical costs after her was shot during the Quebec City Mosque attack. I have linked his GoFund me campaign into the show notes if anybody would like to help.
So, here we are … as Alex just read for us, it’s still Easter! We’re still in on Day 1. The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked. Alone and huddled, worried they’ll be targeted next, they try to make sense of the past days. It’s difficult to comprehend just how much the disciples’ world would have been turned upside down. Fear and pain and doubt close in on them. Fear of the authorities who had collaborated with the empire to crucify their leader. Pain in the loss of a friend who had called them by name. Doubt in the very nature of reality… the stories of a dead man rising cannot really be true, can they? I mean, I don’t know if I’m the only with friends who possess a twisted sense of humour, but each year I feel like I’m wading through dozens of Zombie Jesus Facebook memes during Easter.
Devoid of identity and mission, leaderless and fractured, they close the world off. But then, Jesus shows up. And he offers them greeting. Notice there is no mention of the door opening. They don’t get that it’s him right away, so he shows them his wounds. Then the party starts. How do they party? Jesus starts breathing on them. Awesome stuff here.
I had a funny moment last week when my three year old heard me working with this passage…when I got to the part about Jesus breathing he said,
“But Mama…why Jesus breathe on them?
One thing that’s really hit home for me since becoming a parent is that scripture is really weird – because kids have a great way of pointing out the weirdness.
“Well, honey, that was Jesus’ way of helping his friends see that he was there, and he gave them a piece of himself to take out to the world.”
I was really crossing my fingers this answer would be good enough. It was late in the day and I didn’t know if I had the energy for explaining Ruah – which is a Hebrew word and concept of Spirit. From the story of Noah and the Ark we heard a few weeks ago, Ruah is the Spirit or Wind that God breathed to recede the flood waters. Now Jesus is breathing upon his friends, imparting upon them his spirit and with instructions to go out into the world…
“Yeah, but…Mama. Did Jesus breathe fire? Like a dragon?”
And then I became distracted with how cool a fire-breathing Jesus would be…
But not everybody was there…Thomas was missing. Maybe somebody had to go out for a snack run and he lost rock paper scissors? John doesn’t really explain why Thomas wasn’t there. He also doesn’t really explain why Jesus couldn’t have stuck around a little longer until Thomas came back. I mean, where did he actually have to be? How busy can a guy recently risen really be?
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.
And because of these words, Thomas is not known by some cool nickname like The Rock or Beloved…but Doubting Thomas.
Which seems pretty unfair.
Poor Thomas. I mean, I’m sure he wants to believe that Jesus has returned, but my goodness…maybe it just hurts too much to get his hopes up! Maybe he’s only really just hanging on in the midst of this tragedy. Remember – we’re only a couple of days after Jesus’ death – a dreadfully violent and devastating death at that.
It’s not that Thomas doesn’t believe in Jesus. He doesn’t believe the disciples.
And what reason does Thomas have to believe the disciples? When Jesus returns 8 days later, they’re still locked up in a room. They are still afraid. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that they have just experienced something transformational. There’s no indication that they’ve gone out. Like the song from Two Roads Home that we just heard, they are nowhere, but somewhere to hide… As if they are so scattered and the task they’ve been assigned is just SO HUGE that they don’t even know where to begin. They’re paralyzed by just how much has gone wrong.
I’ve been thinking of this a lot over the past couple of weeks, against the backdrop of everything I spoke about earlier in the show: the gas attack, the air strikes, the bus crash in India, the bus crash in Saskatchewan. An attack in Germany. Being confronted with remarks by both Donald Trump and Doug Ford…and feeling really stuck in this space of ‘I don’t know what to do.’” And when we don’t know what to do, the easiest thing is to do nothing.
I also think of this with some of our churches. The United Church, like most mainline denominations in Canada, is going through a period of ever dwindling numbers. There was a time with almost everybody in the country went to church. Now, people either have other faith communities, or organized religion in general is just not appealing to a large segment of the population. There are a whole lot of reasons for this and many of them are very valid, but as church after church closes its doors, those that are left are often moving into austerity mode. They are operating out of scarcity and fear. There are less and less resources being put into the community and outreach. And so much like the disciples, we’ve become paralyzed. And so, why should anybody believe that there is something important and transformative going on within our church buildings if they’re not seeing any of that played out in the world? Like Thomas, who couldn’t believe his friends’ good news because they remained hidden, afraid and paralyzed, it’s difficult for those on the outside to see what’s so great about belonging to a community of faith…and community that claims to follow the ways of this Jesus guy.
Now, in context … This story is being written to the emerging Christian community. People thought Jesus was coming back. Pretty much any time. This story is less about relaying a story about events that actually occurred, than giving instruction to those who are reading. You can think of this like an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Will breaks the fourth wall and gives a big giant wink to a first century Palestinian audience. “You need to believe in Christ without seeing Christ. He’s coming, don’t worry. But until then, you’ve got to BELIEVE!”
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
The good news is that although it takes a few tries, the disciples eventually DO get it. They move out into the world to continue the transformational work that Jesus started. They continue his message of radical love and commitment to the other. Communities form. People are changed.
And through the mist of chaos and sadness, I see people continuing to strive for goodness and change in the world, from my friend Rachel’s campaign to become a candidate in Toronto Centre for the next provincial election, people working on the front line of our street and community ministries, to the outpouring of support and love for those affected by the Humboldt bus crash because despite my wonderings voiced at the beginning of the show, love and support is a good thing. We are still doing something. And we are not hiding.
And that is an Easter story if ever there was one…
The Living Presence Ministry is a community ministry of the United Church of Canada