Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20: 19-31
THE REV. JAMES M. L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Easter is a season – last Sunday was the first Sunday of Easter, and was kind of a big deal. There were a lot of people here, there was an Easter Egg hunt, we had an Easter brunch in the parish hall – we did a lot of things here last Sunday. Today is the second Sunday of the Easter season, and today there is no egg hunt, there is no brunch in the parish hall, and our pews, well, shall we say, have more room to “stretch out” in, kind of like that “economy plus” seating you have to pay extra for on the airlines.
If you were to ask someone who works in a church to describe today, there’s a good chance you would hear today described as a “low Sunday” a reference to the common lower attendance that most churches experience the Sunday after Easter Sunday. At least that is the phrase that I have always heard. “Low Sunday” doesn’t just translate to “lower” attendance the Sunday after Easter, but it also refers to “lower energy” in the church overall. The church volunteers and staff are tired from all the activity of the week before, maybe the priest giving the sermon on “low Sunday” is using an old recycled sermon from last year – not that I have ever done that before - but you get the idea – low energy, lower attendance, low Sunday.
I used to work for a priest who didn’t believe in the concept of “low Sunday,” who would intentionally schedule activities on anticipated “low Sundays” -maybe like having baptisms at the 10:30 service – in an effort to keep momentum going.
While once I was uncomfortable with the concept of “low Sundays” – I didn’t like the feel of low energy Sunday mornings, I feel differently about them now, because of what I read in the Bible about them. The story that we hear in today’s Gospel is a story about a “low Sunday” if there ever was one. We learn that Jesus’ closest friends and disciples are gathered in a room on the first day of the week – a Sunday.
Imagine how they are feeling – their friend, their leader, Jesus, has been dead only a few days. The person who united them, who did miraculous things with them, who taught them to be better than themselves, he was gone. And those disciples, those men and women who accomplished great things with Jesus when he was alive, now find themselves without him wondering what do we do now?
There probably was not a lot of energy in the room. There were no great crowds, no miracles, no brunches, no Easter egg hunts. Just a bunch of people wondering, where do we go from here? And then, of all days, Jesus shows up – on a low Sunday. Jesus appears in the room somehow – we don’t know how, since the doors of the house were locked. Either Jesus was really handy picking locks or somehow he was able to supernaturally appear there with them. Regardless – it doesn’t matter, because when they all see Jesus, they must have been scared because Jesus says “Peace be with you.” In other words, if this event were to happen today, Jesus would probably quote Bob Marley: “Don’t Worry – Every little thing is gonna be alright!”
The power of this story, at least for me, is that Jesus shows up in our lives, regardless. We don’t need pageantry, we don’t need to have our lives figured out, because often it is during the “low Sundays” of our lives, where like the disciples, Jesus meets us. In other words, it’s in the everyday moments of our lives. It’s in the parts of our lives that are boring, the parts of our lives that are far from glamorous, where it is easiest to see Jesus showing up. Somehow, like walking into the room with the disciples, Jesus figures out a way into our hearts, no matter how well we have locked them up.
Some time ago at another church I had a conversation with a person who was struggling to be reconciled to another person in the congregation. This person was just mad at the other. The struggle lasted for awhile, until one day, this person shared with me, mysteriously, how they came to accept the person with whom they were once angry. I asked the person, “what changed” and he said, “I have no idea, I think it might have been Jesus, sneaking up on, and changing my heart.” That’s what Jesus does, especially on the low Sundays of our lives.
So watch out! If today is a low Sunday, Jesus is on the prowl.
At our lowest moments, Jesus finds a way in. When we see no path forward, Jesus makes a path for us. And that is a blessing, and a gift. So I don’t know if today is a “low Sunday” or not, and it doesn’t matter, because Jesus is here, and our hearts are being changed at this very moment. AMEN.