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Church News Volume 6, Issue 3 (March 2005)

Dear friends,

March is, this year, the month of Easter!

Easter is celebrated in the Christian church in many different ways.

In some of the liturgies of the Orthodox church there is a custom which dates back to the first centuries of Christianity. At a certain point in the service a Deacon shouts out "The doors, the doors!" It is an indication that from then on all the unbelievers, and even those still under instruction in the faith, are to be locked out of the building. Only the initiated are allowed to participate in the Sacred Mysteries.

It was a defensive action designed to protect the sacred rites from profane or merely curious eyes, and to heighten the sense of mystery surrounding the central act of Christian worship.

But it also has echoes of an earlier occasion when the doors were locked in an even more defensive manner. St. John says in his Gospel, that "on the evening of that day (the day of Jesus' resurrection) the doors being shut for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them."

In this case it was not a matter of protecting the sacred from the profane but of self-defence. A group of terrified people were holed up in a room, scared stiff that they would be the next victims in a purge that had already robbed them of their leader.

Either the doors were strong enough, or the Jews too disinterested to bother to break them down, because they remained locked and bolted. An effective barrier between the new church and the world until it was breached by the Risen Christ.

As with many of the stories from St. John's gospel, we can confidently expect to read more into this incident than the bare facts. It provides us with an enacted parable that speaks just as much to our situation as the Church of 2005, as it did to the disrupted and dispirited group of disciples in the upper room.

They were dispirited because, although they had heard the news of the resurrection from other sources, they refused to believe it. They were huddled together, not to plan evangelism and the work of the church, but to bury themselves in mourning along with their founder, Jesus.

But Jesus had to break through the locked doors of their disbelief as well as the sealed door of His own tomb! He had to do this before He could convince them of the reality of His resurrection.

Then He stood among them and greeted them "peace be with you"

Peace. How marvellous the cessation of fear, the security of knowing all was well again and Jesus was once more in control. The fragments could be picked up, the work could recommence and the nightmare of their unbelieving forgiven and forgotten. But no- immediately that fragile sense of security is shattered by an order that was meant to make locked doors once and for all a thing of the past. Jesus says "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you!"

The history of the church can be seen in the two senses of the locked door of the upper room. Often the doors to the world have been locked and the church 'battened down the hatches' Those who have approached have not been welcomed at best, turned away and disheartened at worst.

In times when the church struggles to survive and there appears to be few who support the faith and worship on a regular basis, it is tempting to close the doors and have a ghetto mentality, a holy huddle protected from the outside world.

This must be resisted at all costs. We have to find new ways of reaching out to those around us and proclaiming the message of resurrection through our words and deeds. Our churches should be places of welcome, not of locked doors, long faces and dull worship.

We all have our part to play in obeying the Lord's Easter command.

HAPPY EASTER TO YOU ALL

Rev'd Ian M. Finn

News Letter Archive.

Last Modified Wednesday 25 May 2011