Here are portions of the readings I was commenting on:
1 John 1:1-2:2 "that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all"
and from the Gospel - John 20:19-31"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."
I woke up last Sunday, Easter, to find a story a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page. Following the Great Vigil he came outside of his church last Saturday night and was awestruck by the full moon. He knelt to take a photo of it with his cell phone and while kneeling a car drove up to him. Two police officers got out of that car and my friend, a soft spoken gentle soul of a man, a black man with a wife and two kids, slowly stood up, terrified as he thought, I am a black man with a cell phone in my hand facing two police officers on a dark street. He was terrified as he faced his church, where he is the priest, where his name is on the sign outside, and realized just how vulnerable felt and terrified he was. Nothing happened, the cops didn’t do anything. But that’s not the story. The story is how terrified he was, a black man on a dark street, with a cell phone in his hand, confronted by two police officers.
I want to talk about darkness in 1 John – where it says that God is not in darkness, and how much I dislike that phrase. God is in darkness, God births new life through darkness. And, how it is that imagery like this has been used to teach “us” that darkness is bad and therefor dark people are bad. I hate that it appears in scripture and I can’t let it go unacknowledged.
I want to talk about the Gospel of John, and that the disciples were afraid of the Jews. Of the Jews – how weird that is because, well, they all were still Jews. Not by the time the Gospel was written, but they were when the story takes place.
I want to talk about the way we internalize prejudices of all sorts, and hear things like this so often that they flow over us without any thought.
I want to talk about fear, which is at the heart of these two readings, the image in 1 John and the Gospel story. How fear causes reactivity and paralyzes at the same time. Fear can be useful for survival. The instinct to protect one’s self, for flight or fight, is embedded in the core of all life. However, learning to recognize one’s fear’s and sort out when one’s fear is justified and when it is not also helpful. Fear can be the place from which one steps out in risk, becomes more creative and is propelled into new life.
If the disciples had allowed their fear to remain they would have stayed holed up in that room. Living through their fear, asking questions, literally placing their hands into the wounds of Jesus, into their most broken and fear filled place, lead them to something deeper, to a mission of new life instead of hunkering down in fear and refusing to move.
Instead we should be provoked, unsettled. We should be more like Thomas, questioning, doubting, walking into the darkness and finding Jesus there. Jesus who, through his wounds, brings new life and points the way to truth, who shows us how God is in and with and for everyone. And because of that no one should ever have to live in fear.