HOPE – Little Word – Big Meaning John 20:19-23, John 20:24-31

If you hope it’s going to rain – buy an umbrella, wash your car, plan a picnic – so the saying might go. Or in our world right now, if you hope you won’t catch the virus, or pass it on to someone near and dear – wear your mask, wash your hands, don’t touch other people. For what we can’t see, can hurt us or someone we love. We need Hope not doubting Thomas. Hope is four letters with a whole wealth of meaning. (Hope – 129 times in the Bible in 121 verses) The invisible virus is changing the world, changing the way we do life, changing people. But not necessarily all for the worse. Far from getting us down it seems to be bringing out our best creativity. Despite coughs and sneezes – distancing and sanitizing – grief and sadness – we keep on singing and inspiring hope in others. This is our faithful human spirit at its best. This week someone shared post about things that aren’t cancelled, things that continue to give us hope – Sunshine isn’t cancelled, spring isn’t cancelled, love isn’t cancelled, relationships aren’t cancelled, reading isn’t cancelled, naps aren’t cancelled, devotion isn’t cancelled, music isn’t cancelled, dancing isn’t cancelled, imagination isn’t cancelled, kindness isn’t cancelled, conversations aren’t cancelled, HOPE isn’t cancelled. Hope should win over doubt every time. In a sense, comedians and commercials can be apostles of hope. They lift us up, they help us to laugh in the face of danger, they guide us in ways to encourage others – they inspire us to still giggle, to still love, to still have hope. They make us believe in life and a future while we’re surrounded by the threat of death and disease. Most of all, they can revive our belief in ourselves and in each other, in our ability not just to survive but to thrive even under the most challenging conditions. But all too quickly their kind of hope is gone. We need a better kind of hope, a lasting hope – hope that tells us “Because He Lives, We Can Face Tomorrow.” (you’re welcome for putting that song in your head – haha) If anything, the challenges we face today can unite us – can energize us to fight back with the best within us – can encourage us to reach out to others in ways we never thought of before – can bring out in us the deeply embedded sense of what it means to be human and one global people. (John 3:16) This is what it means to be a disciple. I can imagine this same feeling of new energy, of creativity, of authority, and of mission must have
also flowed through the veins of Jesus’ disciples in the aftermath of His death. In our scripture for today in the gospel of John, Jesus’ disciples are mourning their lost leader. They’re locked in and hidden away from the dangers outside, because their lives have just been turned upside down. Fearing arrest, or even worse death by those who have killed their leader, they fear being recognized or associated with Jesus’ ministry. They can’t trust their Temple colleagues because they don’t know who will turn them in and who will guard their secrets. They can’t trust their friends, because one of their own inner circle has betrayed Jesus, has taken a bribe and has turned Him in. They barely trust each other. They’re disillusioned with the mission they think Jesus has been preparing them for. With Jesus gone, the air has gone out of their balloon – they sit defeated and paralyzed, not sure what to do next. As they hide away mourning and grieving both their friend and their purpose in life, Jesus appears among them within the locked room. And their lives suddenly change. Like a “virtual kick in the pants” – the appearance of Jesus seems to energize the disciples, to restore their understanding of what He means for them to do – to restore their hope for the future – to reassure their belief in God’s mission and meaning. Jesus’ death forces them to finally look at His mission in the way He meant them to see. It forces them into action proclaiming Messiah means Resurrection. Resurrection means salvation. Salvation means life after this life on earth. It teaches them the value of hope, not in themselves, not in their world, but in something beyond themselves – in God, and in the risen Jesus. It makes them realize they have power they never imagine they can possess. And when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, they rise up, they go out, and they begin to heal, and prophesy, and teach, and proclaim God’s victory. Too often, we don’t invest in change until change is forced upon us. Today, a virus is changing the world as we know it with what we might call forced innovation. Right now, people all over the world are engaging in social media, communications, relationships, heroism, learning new words and new meanings – like social distancing, Zoom meetings, self isolate, etc…. The human spirit rises to the occasion when threatened or trampled. Human creativity soars by growing new wings the moment our wings are clipped. And God’s Spirit fills us with life, with love, with compassion, with hope and even peace at the times when we grieve the most. But we don’t ever want to lose our hope in God.