Second Sunday of Easter, April 16, 2023: Acts 2:14a,22-32; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31; Psalm 16

As someone who has lived their life in the northern hemisphere, Easter has always coincided with spring. The celebration of Easter, from the Alleluias and trumpets to the extravagance of flowers, has always been joyful and exuberant.

But the disciples did not greet the resurrection with celebration, but with fear. In today’s Gospel, on the day of the resurrection they had locked the doors of the house “for fear of the Jews”. After all, Jesus had been crucified very publicly, and then suddenly his body had disappeared from the tomb. When Jesus shows up, he just appears.

The story continues with Thomas, the doubter. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the others, and he does not believe it. Like so many of us, Thomas wants evidence, the marks of the nails and the holes in his side.

I’ve long thought of Thomas as a friend, someone who give me permission for doubt. But it occurs to me that the whole story is about how we operate in the world. When we are afraid, not just physically but emotionally, sometimes God shows up. Jesus doesn’t knock, he just walks in. In life, it’s often not in the way we expect, so we don’t recognize it. All we know is that we made it through something.

So this week I am thinking about times when I have been afraid, and the ways I’ve been supported. Unlike Thomas, we don’t get to poke the holes of the nails. But we can (if only in retrospect) recognize Jesus’ presence with us in time of trial.

Easter is one day. We don’t live always in the extravagant joy we now express then; we often live in the fear and anxiety the disciples experienced. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” Jesus tells Thomas. We have not seen as Thomas did, but maybe we too have had the experience of Jesus in our midst.


Sunday of the Passion/ Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023. The Liturgy of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; The Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:11-54; Psalm 31:9-16

Today takes us from the highs of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (but on a donkey, so don’t get too excited) to the lows of his trial and execution by the Roman authorities. Even before we hear the story of the trial and crucifixion, Matthew’s gospel tells us that the city of Jerusalem was in turmoil with his entrance, a sign that people did not know exactly what to make of his arrival.

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion contains both the entry into Jerusalem and, in the reading of the Passion narrative, a trailer for Holy Week. We know what comes next. In doing so, the service provides an exaggerated version of our lives. Most of us have moments of great joy in life, but few of us have not also suffered loss and grief. So this is not just a preview of Holy Week and Easter, it is a reflection on our lives.

The narrative energy of both the stories we read is driven by crowds. Oh, wow! Someone is coming into Jerusalem and my friends are cheering! Let’s cheer! We’re standing outside Pilate’s palace and when he asks what he should do, a crowd roars. There were probably a few people who were in both crowds. Crowds have an energy of their own: when you are in one, it is easy to get carried away and do things you might not otherwise do. This is as true now as it was then. After all, there are concerts where crowdsurfing, or throwing clothing on the stage, is expected; that is not everyday behavior! So an enthusiastic crowd cheers Jesus on his entry, but a crowd also cries for him to be crucified. They eagerly join the soldiers and chief priests in taunting Jesus on the cross. A crowd can encourage you to love; it can also encourage you to hate.

The week ahead is the center of the church year. There is no Christian faith without Good Friday and Easter. We would all like to think we would have been faithful, but Jesus’ closest friends struggled to do so: they fell asleep in the Garden, and Peter denied his connection to Jesus. In a moment of crisis, Jesus was alone. The cheering crowd abandoned him.

We live in a country that is, we are frequently reminded, deeply divided. We are frequently reminded that we increasingly live in isolation from those who think differently from us. These different communities are, at times, like the crowds we read about today. As we enter Holy Week, it is worth considering the crowds we are part of. How can we make sure we are following Jesus, and not just following the crowd?