Reading: John 20:19-23 (ESV)
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Do you remember playing Hide & Seek? It was always one of my favorite games, and by always, I mean always. As I grew older, the variations became more complex and challenging, moving into Ghosts in the Graveyard, where you move around outside in the dark while “it” seeks you. In college, I learned Sardines—great fun, also played in the dark, something of a reversed Hide & Seek: one person hides, and the rest of the players try to find them and steal into the space alongside until only one player is left out in the open. Finally, when I had kids, we created the ultimate version. We called it “Black Panther” (and this was in the early 2000’s) and it involved hiding in the yard in the dark, and blindfolds, and correctly guessing the identity of those found to join them or being ejected back to the status of seeker if you guessed wrong.
It all sounds pretty complicated now, but these games were so beloved, my 24-year-old niece recently asked if I could remember the rules for her! I think the appeal of the game came from the thrill. It was always just a little bit scary, alone in the dark, waiting to see if you would be found, wondering if you could be recognized. It was a little scary for the blindfolded seekers, too, feeling your way around the yard, coming across others groping with outstretched arms. Screams. Squeals. Whispered names. Relief or rejection.
When Jesus finds the disciples, hiding together behind a locked door, they don’t immediately recognize him. He must show his wounds to be identified and calm them with words of “Peace.” There is no rejection from him. In a way, all are named, “It.” With the breath of the Holy Spirit, Christ proclaims them the seekers, sent to find and save every sinner ready to receive the good news. More than that, God continues to wait for God children to find God. When we grope around in the dark, yearning to make a connection, our God is ready to tuck us in safely beside him, and there is room enough for all who seek God.
Holy Spirit, fill me with wonder and guide me in your ways. When I am afraid, you comfort me. When I hide, you find me and call me to be your disciple. May I be identified for the love I live, in Jesus’ name.