Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (April 7, 2024)

(Board Members of the Medical Clinic in Ahuas, Honduras. Together they bring the love of God to many who are in crisis)

Even in Fear, There is Shalom
By Bishop Chris Giesler

 Preaching Text: John 20-:19-31

Last week, as we read Mark’s account of Easter morning, we saw that Mary Magdalene and the other women who accompanied her were full of fear when they saw the stone rolled away and encountered the angel who told them that Jesus was not there. Awe is a better way to describe what they were feeling. This was a holy awe—an awe that comes from knowing that one is standing on holy ground—an awe of knowing that God is near. This is the same “fear” or awe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had when the angel first visited her to announce that she was to bear Christ into the world. This is holy fear, which is very different from being scared.

But this week, the fear that the disciples are feeling is a real fear for their lives. While we are reading this account, we are a week separated from Easter, but this week’s text takes place the very evening after the tomb was found empty.  In John’s account, it is Mary Magdalene who first goes to the tomb by herself and finds the stone rolled away. Alarmed that Jesus’ body is missing, she runs back and gets Peter and the beloved Disciple.  They, in turn, run to the tomb to find the linen cloths that had wrapped Jesus’ body lying there and then depart.  But Mary remains at the garden tomb and has a mysterious encounter with the person she thinks is the gardener. She recognizes that this is really Jesus only after he calls her name.  She is told to go back and tell the disciples. When she does, her words don’t do much to ease the fears of the disciples who remain huddled in the room they had used for their Passover meal.  The doors are locked because they are terrified for their lives. For the disciples who had not heard and seen Jesus for themselves, the fear was so real that they could not bring themselves to believe in the miracle. In our text this week, we learned Thomas was not in the room when Jesus visited, and he is forever known as “Doubting” Thomas because of his lack of belief when the disciples told him that Jesus had been there.  But all of these disciples were doubters.  Look at them – locked up, removed, separated, scared.

But into their fears and into this locked room comes Jesus, whose first word to them is Shalom, which means peace in Hebrew. Shalom is a complex word with a deeper meaning than we might think.  According to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb meaning to be complete, perfect, and whole.

This is the peace that Jesus was offering his disciples locked away in this upper room, and it is the peace that Jesus is offering to us today.

But just like those disciples, we live with fear today, don’t we?

    • Even if life has returned to some sense of normalcy, the pandemic and its impacts on your life’s familial, social, and financial aspects still cause stress.
    • With fear, there is a lack of trust in your most profound relationships.
    • We fear feeling betrayed by loved ones, schoolmates, or co-workers.
    • We have fears about our health, either for ourselves or our loved ones.
    • Simply watching or reading the news can elicit fear.
    • We fear having a feeling of distance between ourselves and God.
    • All of these and more can bring a sense of fear. What is it that keeps you awake at night?

We in the northern hemisphere experience Easter in the spring, which is the perfect complement to Easter.  It is, after all, a season of new life, which is the central message of Easter.  Our brothers and sisters in the far southern hemisphere experience Easter in the middle of their fall as they prepare for winter.   The good news is that Easter brings meaning whether we are descending into winter or rising into a new spring. Whether our lives are falling into fearful isolation or bright with the promise of new possibilities.

No matter where you are, Easter is there! No matter where you are, listen to Jesus; Peace be unto you! Shalom!

The Easter message is not meant for each of us individually to hold for ourselves. It is intended for us to share with others both near and far.   As Jesus extends this needed word of peace to his disciples, he also says: “As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.” And with that, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.  That mandate is extended to the disciples of today as well.  Yes, you could call it your mission.  Where there is fear, let us speak a word of peace, wholeness, fulfillment, harmony, and completeness.  The list could go on and on, as are the opportunities for us to share this Easter SHALOM.