Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Keep your voice down someone will hear. At least that’s the response I imagine in the scene before us in today’s Gospel for ‘the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.’

It was finished, or so they thought – they were still reeling from Mary Magdalene’s proclamation that she had ‘seen the Lord.’ Left wondering how could that be?

This morning we find them afraid of being found and facing the same fate as the man they had followed. So, ‘the doors were locked for fear’.

This image of locked doors seems so apt for us at the moment. Especially as we recall that tomorrow the locked doors of shops, and gyms and pubs (well, as long as you are sat outside) will be opened again.

And we, a little later than some churches will open our doors next Sunday for public worship, and it will be good to see some of you again, although facemasks and distancing and not singing will be with us for a while yet.

And as the vaccination continues to be rolled out, the locked doors of many in our neighbourhood will be opened again to family and friends. And yet I suspect we shall continue to live with some degree of fear.

For- some will fear what opening their doors will look like, having avoided supermarkets and trips out for over a year but beyond the pandemic we fear all sorts of things.

We fear someone who is different. We fear the group of youths gathered on a street corner. We fear change. We fear letting go of responsibilities and roles. We fear failing and getting it wrong. We fear…..

‘And the doors were locked for fear.’

But then as the Bible reminds us time and again when God does a new thing fear is never far away. So, it’s not really surprising that it isn’t unbounded joy that greets the resurrection but fear.

Then ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you.”’ Jesus knows their fear and he does not condemn them for abandoning him but gives them peace.

He shows them his wounds and reassures them by repeating that word of peace. And just imagine how they needed that reassurance, having denied him and fled.

But this is more than reassurance, he then entrusts his mission to the world to them. ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. They are sent into the world despite their denials, despite their self-doubt, confusion, and fear. Sent out sustained by the breath of the Spirit.

And there began the journey, and for me at least the disciples fear would not have magically disappeared more they understood it differently. Perhaps that is what the gift of the Holy Spirit did for them at first, helped them to see things differently.

Notice the detail in the Gospel today for by the following week and Thomas’ arrival the doors though still shut are not locked. Perhaps that is a reminder that learning to cope with our fears happens slowly.

And slowly is the pace at which we have been moving as we emerge from lockdown. The Government has been cautious, and we at St. Mary’s have been too. And yet in the midst of the many fears of our time we have remained, and I hope been a place of hope and encouragement.

It has been a time of gathering behind closed doors and yet as this Gospel reminds us, our faith in Jesus is not lived behind closed doors.

Jesus sent them, and sends us out, despite our fears, fears of looking silly, fears of being dismissed and derided – we are sent out to ‘love and serve the Lord’ where we are and with those we are given.

And that loving and serving the Lord is about building together the kind of community that we heard of in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. A radical re-imaging of how we can live together.

And yet as experience tells us we fall short. We lock the doors of our hearts for fear. We like Jesus but at a safe distance.
But following Jesus as the first disciples, as the emerging community built around his risen presence discovered is anything but safe. It was risky, dangerous, led to imprisonment and death.

We have known death through this pandemic but now the doors of our society are being unlocked as we emerge from the tomb we have lived through.

And as the disciples discovered from fear came opportunity, and the same is true for us. There are many unknowns about the future, many fears will all carry but we have a choice.

A choice we make daily, not just in regard to how we emerge from a pandemic but more widely in how we choose to live our lives.

We can either lock the doors or we can step into the future holding our fears alongside the hope we have, to proclaim the resurrection not just in words but in our lives.

To live not fuelled by fear but by love. ‘Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you.”’

Jesus comes among us now, here as we worship and with you in your home. Time and again he finds his way through the often locked door of our hearts and whispers in our ear ‘“Peace be with you”’.

May that peace root us in the days to come.

And may the Holy Spirit that the risen Jesus ‘breathed’ on the disciples, be the breath of life that sends us out to love and serve the Lord as best we can, so that on our lips we are never afraid to say

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.