Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Closed Doors

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

April 12:

Call:       1 John 1: 1-5
Reading:    W&S #187
Text:       John 20: 19-31
Closing:    Acts 4: 32-33

                Closed Doors

Today,  we hear the story first.        [Read John 20: 19-31]

There are two major reasons for the inclusion of this story.
    Both are pretty obvious
    But I'll mention them anyway.

The first:      is to show one of the many appearances
            That Jesus made
            Between Easter and His Ascension
    AFTER       His well witnessed
                Death and burial

And thus is testimony and evidence
that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead.

Because of the several recorded post resurrection appearances
    His resurrection is confirmed
And because the resurrection was confirmed
    The fact that he was and is the Christ  was confirmed
And because he was and is the Christ
    The authority and credibility of his teachings
Were also confirmed

This scripture and the other appearance scriptures
    Are incredibly important to our faith.
The second major reason is that
with something as remarkable and miraculous as resurrection
    there are bound to be
questions,     skepticism,  and doubt.

And this scripture points out the need for faith and trust.
    While acknowledging our questioning human nature

As we observe Thomas' skepticism in the story itself,
We can see how easy it was
even for one of the original disciples -
to become skeptical of such a story

and so in processing our own doubts and our own questions
    as well as the doubts and questions of others,
we don't simply reject them by dismissing anyone who has them
    but rather by taking another look
    and by understanding why we should and do believe

Thomas knew and worked with Jesus of Nazareth.
Thomas knew and worked with the other disciples.

But despite having heard what Jesus had said
    And knowing what Jesus had done;
And despite having worked with the other disciples
    And learning to rely on the truth of what they said,

Thomas still couldn't accept the fact
    Or at least could not wrap his mind around the fact
That Jesus had risen
    And had appeared to his colleagues and companions.

Then        Then        Then        he encountered Jesus himself
    And was mortified at his disbelief

And he received his lesson
    And we received ours
When Jesus said,
    "Happy are those who don't see and yet believe."

That is what we call faith.

But I see a pair of other messages tucked in this scripture
    Often overlooked because of the importance of
        The evidence of resurrection
    And The message of faith.

These other messages come from
the fact that both of the appearances
        To the disciples without Thomas
And To the disciples including Thomas

Involved Christ visiting them even though
    The doors to their room were    Closed and/or locked.

There are only two reasons to close doors
    One is to keep something out
    The other is to keep something in

Often we close doors for both reasons at the same time.

In this case,
 John tells us why the doors were closed
    "because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities."

Thus they were closed to keep those authorities out

Out Physically:     Jesus had just been crucified
                Would they be next?

Out of the sight line:  They would be in considerably less danger
                If they were not noticed by the authorities.

If the doors were open
    It would be for the authorities like it was for the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood"
        "the better to see you with, my dear."

And like the old cliché, the disciples were convinced:
    "Out of sight,  Out of mind."

But for those gathered in that room,
    The closed - perhaps even locked - doors
Did not render them
    out of the sight of Christ
Or  out of Christ's mind either.

That being the case,
    One lesson that we take from the closed doors
        Is that     we  can't       hide      from  Christ.

But there is a second, less obvious lesson from the doors,
    A lesson that did not occur to me until yesterday afternoon

It was around 4:00.

I was back at the church
trying to figure out what I was supposed to be saying today

Although I knew
that I was supposed to be talking about the closed doors,
and I knew that not being able to hide from Christ
    was so accepted that it did not need mentioning
I was far less certain about what else
it was that I was to say about the closed doors.
For it had became apparent to me early in the week
That what I thought I was going to say
Back when I selected the text for today
    Wasn't going to work.

And thus I had been grasping for direction ever since.

Finally, yesterday afternoon,
    I was reading Bishop Flint's biography of Charles Wesley

This was
a book that Bruce Lee Clark had given to me
        after his father had passed away.

A book that I used when we, a year ago,
        built a series of worship services around Charles' hymns

    a book that is important to me
        because I am fascinated by Methodist history
    and even more so,
        because it had belonged to my friend Russell
        who had received it at annual conference in 1959
            some 56 years ago.

Now Charles Wesley and his big brother John,
    Traveled so much
    That they might well have been Willie Nelson's inspiration
        For "On The Road Again."

[Of course, I am not betting that Nelson was an active Methodist
although he and his sister Bobbie did while growing up
sing gospel songs in a local church in Abbott, TX]

Thus Charles was often away from his wife
    but consistently kept in touch with her by letter
And so, late yesterday afternoon, I read about the content of some of those letters.  Flint wrote,
    "Constant solicitude in her illness and her physical welfare
    is mingled with concern for her spiritual growth:
and then he shared some of Charles' advice to her
    if 'necessary,' Wesley wrote his wife,
    she should shut the door against company
    to keep inviolate       the trysting hour with God." [p. 174]

It was then that I realized the message of the closed doors.

They were not closed
just to make Jesus' appearance more dramatic
or even just because of the need for physical safety

They were closed to keep out threats of distractions
    That might interfere with, or disrupt, prayers and devotions,
- the disciples' time to be alone with Christ

So,         like the disciples and like Sally Wesley
    There are time we need to literally or figuratively
    Close our doors, in order to focus on Christ

And isn't this a great way to finish our understanding of this passage?

You see,
This passage is evidence of Christ's resurrection.
This passage is recognition that we will have doubts
        And that faith can overcome those doubts
And     this passage provides us with a tool to strengthen our faith
        By enabling us to get "alone time" with the resurrected Christ.

And to think it took me until late yesterday afternoon
    To finish figuring this out!