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April 11, 2021 



Every month we put some Bible study questions in our monthly newsletter, the Flame.  The questions for today’s Gospel reading included the following questions:  “Where in your house did you hide when major storms hit?  If your team had just suffered a great defeat, what would you do to get ready for the next game?”  The questions address the concerns of FEAR & TEAM WORK.

When we suffer a great storm in our lives, most of us would like to have a place to hide, a place to find at least a little calm, a safe place.  The Wizard of Oz was on the TV listings last week and I decided to record it.  I realized that I hadn’t seen it for many years—and that’s just not right.  Growing up and our kids growing up, it was on TV EVERY YEAR.  

Dorothy lives in farm country and finds fear in both the physical fear of a Midwestern tornado and the ugly dispute with a neighbor over her pet dog, Toto.  The safe place she goes to is the LAND OF OZ.  Oz certainly is a magical place.  There is a yellow brick road that promises to take Dorothy to a Kind Wizard who will help take care of all her fears.  If she runs into problems, she also has Glenda, a friendly White witch who use her magic to help her.  Oz seems both make-believe and wonderfully real!

I moved my family to Midwestern farmland, too, when my first church call took me to a farm community in Iowa.  Our welcome not only included a tornado that had ripped the roof of the next closest Lutheran church roof, but we also found out that the remodeling of the parsonage would not be done for another month and we would have to live in the fellowship hall, which was built half underground—for fear of tornados, of course!  Ironically, the locals thought it was crazy to live in California, what with all the destruction those earthquakes could bring!  I didn’t feel even a hint of irony when, on the day we moved back to California, a tornado came within a couple of miles of our town!  I guess there are just plenty of things to raise your fear level in this world.  

Last week we heard a pretty Great Story.  We saw and smelled beautiful flowers.  We got some sweets.  Many got a little extra spruced up.  There was celebration in the air!

But, like that OZ movie, the yearly Easter story also doesn’t start with Peace and Harmony.  Yes, Jesus ministry was going along about as well as a great crop harvest.  But, storm winds were beginning to blow.  Sadly, it was the supposed spiritual leaders of the people who were getting jealous of Jesus rise in popularity.  People were drawn to the way that Jesus not only talked the talk about loving both friend and foe, but he taught and acted out giving the same love and forgiveness to all people no matter their rank or race.  

 Instead of adopting Jesus’ loving and inclusive ways, the religious and political leaders tried to undermine him and spread lies about him.  When that didn’t work, they plotted to have him arrested.  He was tried on false charges and sentenced to death on the cross.  What had started out looking like the Emerald City of Jerusalem, turned out to be his place of death and entombment.  

Then, Jesus rose from the dead, so all should be well, right?  Not exactly—not at all—at first.  Jesus disciples were held captive by their shame and their fear—shame for deserting him and fear that they would meet the same cruel fate as he did.  The disciples didn’t need that locked room to hold them prisoner.  They locked themselves in there and had thrown away the key!  

It didn’t matter where they found themselves, they needed to face their fears, and their guilt.  The disciples didn’t have to risk opening the door.  Jesus took care of that.  They were still afraid until Jesus showed them both his wounds and his forgiveness.  I found it so interesting that when Thomas came, he was called the DOUBTER.  Truth be told, he demonstrated more faith and courage than the others when he asked to see Jesus’ wounds before he even offered it!  HONEST & COURAGEOUS DOUBTING—WHAT A CONCEPT!

The second question was what would we do if we had suffered a great loss.  I thought back to the softball team I coached.  We were playing in a double elimination tournament.  We were a church team that had just enough players to field a team and had lost to a store team that had crushed us 25-4.  We kept plugging away and amazingly played ourselves into the championship game against the same team that slaughtered us.  We never figured to get that far, so we played one player short when one player left for a family vacation.

The other team was full of a lot of loud braggarts who tried to hit nothing but homeruns so they could be the star.  Sure we had some fear—if you call the fear of getting slaughtered again.  But, we had a common faith in God and each other.  Everyone pulled for the other.  We beat them 10 to 4 because we lived by faith and not by fear.  Even if we had lost the game, we would have been winners because, as followers of Christ, we were a COMMUNITY OF FAITH—by the way, our church was another FAITH LUTHERAN!

Just in case you forgot, that Christian Community that was sharing all things, and made up of both rich and poor, Gentile and Jewish converts, and probably both religiously and politically conservative and liberal were growing because their faith in the risen Christ was the CORE OF THEIR GROWING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY!

Maybe Jesus is saying to you and me the same thing that he said to Doubting Thomas, “Take hold of me, wounds and all.  Stop doubting and believe!”

And all of God’s working-together-loving community said…AMEN!  HE IS RISEN—HE IS RISEN INDEED!