19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
-John 20:19-22, NRSV
At the start of this passage, the disciples are isolated and scared. Their fear has caused them to isolate behind closed doors, even locked doors. It’s not an unreasonable fear — just days earlier, after all, their beloved rabbi and Lord had been publicly brutalized and violently murdered. It’s not unreasonable to fear they could be next. Tensions in the city still run high. Better to lay low, at least for now.
But then Jesus appears in the locked room and speaks words of peace in the face of their fears. He then breathes on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
We, too, find ourselves in a time when so many of us are isolated or scared. Our fear — fear of succumbing to coronavirus, fear of infecting others, fear of side effects yet unknown — has caused many of us to isolate behind closed doors. While debates abound as to the level of risk or the best course of action, these aren’t unreasonable fears, either. This is a global pandemic, after all… and in our own nation alone, some 200,000 lives have already been lost.
While the catalyst for our fear and the cause for our isolation may differ… I find myself feeling a new level of empathy for the disciples in this story. I find myself engaging with their isolation, their fear. I find myself longing for Jesus to show up behind these closed doors and speak words of peace in the face of my fears.
And then I remember that he has already sent the Holy Spirit to be present with me, with you, with all of us — just as he promised. Jesus already had it covered.
So with that assurance, I find myself praying the words of this most fitting prayer, written by Brother Roger of Taize:
Holy Spirit, Comforter, come and breathe upon the worries that can keep us far from you. And enable us to discover the wellsprings of trust placed in the depth of our being.
Breathe, and trust, and remember:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
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