By Conference Minister Diane Weible
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22)
When we first moved from Japan to Hawaii, I was afraid to leave the house after dark. For 12 years I watched the news about the United States from our living room in Japan. The reports about violence in the United States convinced me that it was not safe. It didn’t matter that I had lived in the United States for the first 27 years of my life, I had convinced myself that it was now different and dangerous. My inclination was to stay inside where I would remain safe.
I remember stopping at the grocery store one night after Bible Study. I was scared to walk from my car to the door of the store and back. Eventually, that level of fear faded. Now, I laugh, even as I realize that the fear, while perhaps not realistic, was very real to me at that time.
For the next three weeks, Conference Ministers are recording sermons for ministers to use in their local churches. While writing and recording the sermon I prepared for this coming Sunday, the words of scripture jumped out at me in a new way.
That Gospel of John, chapter 20, tells us the Disciples were in a locked room because they were afraid. If that doesn’t explain the past 14 months for many of us, I don’t know what does. Even essential workers who have had to leave their locked rooms to go to their jobs did it with fear—fear for themselves and for their family.
We have all been in our locked rooms, looking out of our windows into a world that is dealing with multiple pandemics—COVID-19, Racism, and police violence to name just a few. The levels of fear for each of us may be different because of the way we are impacted by the many layers of the various pandemics in our world today but the fear for all of us is real.
As more and more people become vaccinated and our threat level for COVID lowers to a different color, we begin to anticipate the “what’s next”. Visiting family and friends, going to restaurants, enjoying activities that have been off-limits for a very long time, are just a few of the activities we look forward to in the coming months.
But that doesn’t take away the fear. Just like me during those early days of life in Hawaii, we are not sure what to expect in the world or how we will and can show up when we begin to interact with other people. Sometimes I even wonder if I remember how to be physically present with others in the same room for conversation and connection.
Our Asian American and Pacific Islander Siblings are carrying a particularly heavy burden of fear about leaving their locked rooms to step out into a world that is feeling very unsafe. This is something that all our Siblings of Color have reported they carry with them every time they get in their car or go for a walk in their neighborhood—even sometimes when sitting in what they expect to be the safety of their own homes.
Peace Be With You. Those are the words Jesus speaks when he appears in their locked room. Do not be afraid. Look at my hands. It is me. You are not alone. And, I am going to breathe the Holy Spirit on you to empower you to go out. It is scary to do this work and there are no guarantees but when it comes to responding to my Call, remaining in this locked room is not an option.
Jesus could have unlocked the door for them but I believe he wanted them to do it themselves. Jesus empowers us to move beyond our fear and look to the work that we are called to do—both personally and as a collective body.
Peace be with you all in these days and all the days ahead. May the fear that threatens to hold us back be calmed by the power of the Resurrected Christ who calls us to transformational work in a world that needs us there.