This is real. Jesus, standing alive in our midst, just as he stood in the midst of the disciples nearly 2,000 years ago. Impossibly encountering and coming to the disciples and us, not just beyond a door they had locked, but from beyond the cross where Jesus went to be willingly crucified so that their lives, our lives and our very narratives, yes even the very narrative of the universe, might be forever altered by grace.

This is real.
Jesus’ declaration of “Peace be with you.“
Jesus alive.
Jesus resurrected.
Our hopes not dashed but just begun.
This is real.

Yet this is also real – that these are very, very difficult times God’s world is living through, with people sick, and suffering, hungry and deeply challenged. We’re all challenged in one or more ways right now. Maybe you or someone you know and love is afraid for their job or has already lost their job. Or maybe you or someone you know is feeling lonely and cut off during these pandemic times - from hugs that feed our souls the way good healthy food feeds the body. You or they might be longing for more than a phone call or zoom meeting or Facebook post.

And it is also real - that you or the ones you love might be afraid because of this frightening virus itself or because of the strange and even crazy things some people are doing because of their fear; crazy things like protesting efforts to keep us all healthy and safe or buying guns to build a false sense of safety, all the while condemning others instead of working together for the common good, as should be our aim always, but especially at times of crisis. These things are also real and they may have us all locking doors real or figurative
in our lives. Yes, there is probably a part of all of us that is like those disciples locked up in fear in the Upper Room. And like Thomas, who was not there on the first night when
Jesus visited the disciples There is a part of all of us that is like Thomas saying "unless I see the mark of the nails and put my finger in the mark of the nails“ I will not believe.

We all long for safety. We all want proof. We all want the answers. We all want to know what is real and what is not. That’s probably always been the case and this pandemic has perhaps only made this desire to know more pronounced, more...real. But while we might want a God of quick fixes what we receive is a Savior for the Long Haul. While we might wish for a God who doesn’t allow for messes what we receive is Christ who suffers alongside us in all of this messiness of life. And this Christ, this is the most REAL thing of all.

I came across a quote from writer and poet Sonya Renee Taylor, writing about life after the coronavirus: 

We will not to back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.

Deep sigh…When we look beyond the fears and doubts that lock us in our Upper Rooms, we find the Christ who not only meets us with love as we are doubting and fearing, but we meet Christ who is inviting us to a new reality. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. Or as we striving to be Christians might say, “to participate in Christ‘s new creation.” Where the old and the broken and the bewildered and the plain wrong-headedness is laid aside, left in the tomb where it belongs. 

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And neighbor takes Hand of neighbor and together, inch by agonizing inch, we stitch this new garment, we participate in this new creation – probably still full of doubts and fears, but also finding that golden threads are richly interwoven, threads of courage and love and compassion born and made possible by a Power greater than our own; born of a Savior‘s sacrifice that takes our breath away, only to fill our lungs with love and breath anew, love enough to spare and share and spread lavishly with all.

This is real.