When we think of change: whether it is in the world, our careers, or our personal lives, what comes to your minds? Change can be exciting but it can also be a time full of anxiety and dread for many. Change can be frightening because we can’t always predict what will come next or how everything might play out in the end. Change was what our disciples lived in fear of after the crucifixion. They had given up everything in their previous lives to follow Jesus believing him to be the promised Messiah of deliverance for their people. They gave up careers and left their loved ones to follow and learn under the guidance of Jesus, the man they believed was the only hope for the Hebrew peoples.
Now they sat panicked and frozen in their anxieties in the upper room after watching from a far as they tortured and crucified the very man they gave everything up for. It didn’t matter how many times Jesus had warned them about his impending death and the necessary changes to come. The disciples still gave into their fears of suffering a similar fate and they locked themselves away from the world. They lock themselves away from a world that killed their friend, their teacher, their mentor. They locked themselves away from a world that thrived on violence; a world that was desperately in need of change, desperately in need of the message of Christ. The world was in need of a change from the ways of violence and hate to lives in lived in the love of Christ, a change from hate and revenge, to forgiveness and reconciliation.
We all fear what we don’t know or yet understand. We see a change on the horizon or have a life altering experience and the first thing we want to do is to pretend that everything is alright that life really hasn’t changed. Many of you may already know that my little family is coming upon a major change. We will no longer be a family of husband, wife, and fur baby. But we will be welcoming in a new life. This change isn’t bad at all and we do view it as a blessing. But at the same time it is scary trying to be as prepared as possible yet knowing that we are utterly unprepared. Questions swirl around our minds. Will we be good parents? Will she be happy? Can we do this? In the beginning months you know that your life will change and has changed experienced in the nausea all day long, to the tiredness, but at the same time it is easy to pretend that nothing has changed and you have all the time in the world. As we have moved further along in the pregnancy, we have had to come to terms that this is really happening and there is not as much time as we had hoped. I am reminded of this every day when Madeleine kicks me or when we receive onesies in the mail.
With Christ’s resurrection, life has to change. Our lives have to take on a different meaning. We can no longer pretend that life hasn’t changed. Jesus came back to his disciples to snap them out of their fear and to breathe life into the disciples once more. Christ was asking his disciples to choose love over fear, to choose a life of compassion over all that life had been before. We are called, as well, to make compassion a defining feature of our lives and through those acts effect change to a world in need.
We are being urged to look at the state of our world and decide that it doesn’t have to be violent, selfish, and hate filled. It can be something new and different. It can be filled with the love of Christ. But we need to make the choice, each one of us, to act on the call to a new life. Dwight L. Moody, a 19th century evangelist and author, wrote “If we have got the true love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we will show it in our lives. We will not have to go up and down the earth proclaiming it. We will show it in everything we say or do … The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy”. We are being urged to see the realities of life for many peoples who live in desperate situations. There are families with small children living in shelters because they cannot afford homes to live in. There are people standing along the sides of the road waiting and hoping someone will stop and pick them up for work. There are people getting killed in our world just because of what they look like or what their heritage is. Our world finds its self in need of Christ’s love and compassion, shown through our works, more than ever.
Our world needs people willing to live into love for their neighbors, for those who suffer, people brave enough to face their own fears in order to change the state of this world or at the very least the life of someone else. Christ did not reappear to the disciples because he wanted to say one last goodbye to them before he ascended to the Father. No. He reappeared because if he didn’t they would have all stayed in hiding putting the lessons Christ taught in life behind them as they attempted to get back to the way life was before Christ came. Jesus needed to appear before Thomas to convince him that the message Christ taught in life was still very much alive and still urgently needed in the world. Christ needs all believers to spread the word of a loving compassionate God to all who will listen. He needs as many people as possible to be willing to choose his love over the vices of the world.
Even today, as we sit here and worship, as we sing and listen for the word of God, we are being called by Christ. We are being asked to believe in the resurrection and to carry on the message he preached. We are being asked just like those disciples to live Christ’s message in this world. We can make a difference, with the help of the disciples people gained hope for tomorrow and the world came to know Jesus for themselves. Just think of the difference we can make in this world if we just act out of respect, love, and care first in all that we do. We are being challenged to set aside our fears in a way that Thomas struggled to do and to pick up the legacy of Jesus and carry it on. We must never forget the words of Jesus when he said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you … receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”. We have the Holy Spirit with us leading us and guiding our actions today and every day. Let’s not be too afraid to use it to make this a better world for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
 Dwight L. Moody, Evangelist and Author, 19th Century.
 John 20: 22-23, NRSV.
(Based on Psalm 133 and John 20: 19-31)