The Rev. Nancy Crawford, Deacon
Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31
Listen! I have something to tell you. Just between you and me. It’s good news. “Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.”
When someone is afraid to have people outside the circle hear some good news – afraid for a variety of reasons – the news is often shared in a hushed voice. It’s still good news that warms the heart, like the early news of a baby on the way – wonderful news, but news so wonderful that it just isn’t real yet.
Perhaps that is how the disciples felt when they received the good news, the wonderful news, which Jesus brought to them on that day, the first day of the week following his crucifixion and death. The disciples had insulated themselves from the outside world and were locked in a room, in fear, when they saw the Good News of their resurrected Lord and heard him say, “Peace be with you.” Thomas wasn’t there. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the detail, but we can be pretty certain this wasn’t shouted in the streets of Jerusalem, nor toasted at a grand and boisterous celebration party. Because it was, a week later, when the disciples, including Thomas, were in the same safe house with the doors shut, that Jesus came and stood amongst them.
This time it wasn’t a declarative statement by those who had seen and a terse rebuttal by the one who doubted. No, when Thomas saw and heard Jesus for himself, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Now the Good News was feeling real to them. By the time we hear of the disciples in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples have been out in the streets of Jerusalem teaching about Jesus. They no longer hide in a locked house, because the news is too good to keep amongst themselves. Later in Luke’s account, the disciples were flogged for what they had done, ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let go. These men were spared death, yes, but held, flogged, and intimidated. And what did they do? They rejoiced and “every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.”
In the history of the world there was another time when a small circle of people locked themselves away and spoke in hushed voices, trying to be safe. In 1942, in fear of the authorities, Otto Frank and his family moved into some hidden rooms in his office building in Amsterdam. They went there in an attempt to avoid the persecution and death of the Jews that was going on throughout occupied Europe. And in that family was Anne. An autograph book had been given to her on her 13th birthday and she made it her diary. She chronicled her life in those rooms until she and her family were betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank, her sister Margot, and their mother Edith died in the camps.
Initially, Anne wrote strictly for herself. Then, one day in 1944, she heard a radio broadcast from London given by a member of the Dutch government in exile. The official announced that after the war he hoped to collect and make public eyewitness accounts of the Dutch people’s suffering under the German occupation, so that those who had not seen would still understand. As an example, he specifically mentioned letters and diaries. Anne Frank decided that when the war was over she would publish a book based on her diary. Because she did not survive the war, it fell instead to her father to see her diary published.
Anne wrote: “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
In one of the most famous excerpts from her diary, Anne wrote: “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
The sorrow of losing his family did not deter Otto Frank from sharing his daughter’s most intimate thoughts. Nor were the disciples deterred by their sorrow or by the persecution they faced. Nor should we be deterred by the sorrow of Jesus’ suffering and death, or the wonder at his resurrection and appearance to the disciples. This is all part of the Good News. And so is the happiness of being included in those Jesus named blessed; blessed who have not seen and yet have come to believe, that through believing we may have life in his name.
Now it is our turn to leave this safe place of magnificent insulation, this circle of family and friends, and go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Show someone we are God’s people with a kind word and a warm heart. Show someone we are God’s people by caring for the persecuted and speaking up for the oppressed. Show someone we are God’s people by declaring it, right out loud: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!