When I was at The General Seminary in Chelsea,
Cheri and I moved into what the Seminary called
a second floor two bedroom apartment.
Today, I would call it more like a hallway with two closets…
it was small and loud.
But one of the things,
which still stands out to me about that building
was the front door entrance.
Now granted we were coming from a small town
in the deep south,
but I remember that door had several locks on it.
And I wondered why we would need so many.
I discovered that the benefit was mostly emotional.
Because I after unloading the moving van,
and picking up dinner at Frankie’s corner deli,
I was just about to our building
when I suddenly realized three men
were walking very fast
and coming up right behind me.
I stepped up my pace a bit and hurried up the steps
to put my key in the door…
finally opening the door I rushed inside
and just as it “clicked” shut behind me,
I suddenly felt safe again
and there was a calm hush of peace.
I think of that door and that feeling of protection
when I listen to people describe how they cope with their fears.
Because, in a way,
some of us can keep our hearts behind a huge door, full of locks…
when something or someone makes us afraid.
If someone tries to get in before they’re invited,
especially if that heart has been hurt before,
then we hear that "click" of the lock again.
Well, on the night of that first Easter,
the disciples were huddled together behind a locked door.
But, I often wonder what they were really afraid of?
Somehow, I don’t think
they were only worried about those who had killed Jesus.
Their fear must have been even deeper.
Maybe they didn’t want to deal with the scorn
of those who knew they had failed to protect Jesus.
In spite of all their earlier boldness,
they were now afraid of the cross.
Ashamed of his death.
Maybe like the disciples,
we too can try to hide
when we’re ashamed.
We keep our hearts locked up tightly
because we know the truth about ourselves…
and the truth is that we are really NOT what we want to be,
or even what we pretend to be.
In fact, Garrison Keillor –
who rarely has time for hypocrites, once said..
"We always have a backstage view of ourselves.
We let the audience see only the neatly arranged stage.
But behind the curtain all kinds of things are lying around…”
Very often here in Greenwich…
the beautiful manicured lawns and tall stone walls
are not big enough to protect us from pain and fear.
I am sure there are many failures,
guilt and shame to go around for all of us.
Trouble is American media like People magazine tells us,
that we are living in a shameless society…
where post-modern people are no longer bothered by shame.
Well, what the heck is going on with
Tkki Barber, Jesse James,
Tiger Woods and his disgusting Nike ad last week.
Well, I refuse to allow this culture
to define American moral and ethical standards…
I believe every human being at some deep level
is bothered by something.
In fact, if allowed…
it can plague our souls.
I know it does mine…
Psychologists say that shame sweeps over us
when we overstep our abilities,
or when our fantasy about who we would like to be
encounters the backstage reality
of who we REALY are.
Nothing is more crippling than working at hiding shame.
We lock up more and more doors,
sealing off more and more rooms of the heart
to prevent our true selves from being discovered.
This moves us right into the heart of today’s message…
Jesus Christ comes looking for us.
And, according to John’s text,
he walks right through the locked door to find us.
Jesus shows us his wounds from the cross,
which are the marks of our forgiveness.
Then he says, "Peace be with you."
We are forgiven,
loved and now set free…
The word Forgiveness actually means "to free up" or "to let go."
But not freedom to continue making bad choices,
but freedom to accept Christ as the ONLY means
to lasting change and healing of heart.
No question, everyone at some point makes bad choices…
count me in that group!
But, I like these words from Lewis Smedes,
"When you forgive…you set a prisoner free.
And then somehow you discover, that that prisoner was really you."
What this means is we disciples
are not called to produce forgiveness by ourselves.
We are simply called to open the locks,
throw open the doors,
and walk with Boldness and Peace
into the warm Light
of the Resurrected Christ.