Like many of you, I am a great lover of the theatre and one of my favourite all time plays is “The Woman In Black”.
It’s a bit of a ghost story. The sort of thing that might have you hiding behind your coat as the suspense of it all starts to grip you.
And the Fortune Theatre in London where it has been put on is quite a spooky place too.
There’s nothing much on the stage and just two actors in the whole thing and yet they create an atmosphere in there that is certainly not for the faint hearted.
To one side of the stage is a door – and at various points in the play – one or other of the actors tries to open it – but it is always locked, until one moment in the second half when it suddenly springs open for no apparent reason and the whole audience jumps out of their skin.
In spite of the rumour that Jesus has risen from the dead, we read that the disciples continued to meet behind locked doors. They were so fearful, they didn’t dare open up to anyone, but Jesus bursts through their defences and twice over he comes to sit in their midst.
He breathes his peace upon them and he shows them his wounds from the cross, and he speaks about forgiveness.
He doesn’t make himself known in the temple or the synagogue but in the homes of his friends. At their meal tables. He comes to where they are, to tell them that they need no longer be afraid.
It took them a while to be confident in that promise – but in the end , on the day of Pentecost , when the Holy Spirit is given to them, then they unlock the door, go out into the street and boldly proclaim the reality of God’s love. And the rest is history.
For much of the time in these days, our doors are locked fast. I don’t like to see the big blue doors of our church closed. I don’t like being at home and the doorbell rings and my first thought is – whoever it is – is it safe to open up.
The doors of our homes are set fast with chains and bolts, security codes and double locking key systems. And we do need to be safe and we have to take precautions like this – but in terms of our relationship with God – we can afford to be so much more cavalier.
Behold I stand at the door and knock – says the spirit in the book of Revelation – if anyone hears my voice and opens up, I will come into him, and eat with him, and he with me.
In these weeks we have the chance to understand God’s presence in new ways. Because we cannot be in church, we have to find new ways of walking with him. Our homes can become our chapels, our meal tables, our altars, and the places where we walk are our prayer spaces.
Jesus broke through the locked doors not just so that the disciples could feel better and feel sustained in their old ways, but rather he came to set them on a new track.
He breathed on them his peace so that they could share that peace with others.
He showed them his wounds so that they could tend the wounds of others.
He forgave them their sins so that they could forgive others in turn.
To make peace. To bring healing. To forgive.
If we do not realise that Easter is about making us channels of these things – then we continue to sit behind closed doors, and that is no good for church people.
A point to reflect on is how we might be most effective in these ways wherever we find ourselves now and in the company we keep.
I suppose it’s easy for me to talk.
These last few weeks have caused me to have all sorts of conversations with all sorts of people and I ask myself if these are just crisis talks for a time of crisis – or if these are each opening doors to push open even wider when these times are past.
So as you pray and reflect in this next week – think of a door that has always felt shut to you where the sharing of peace, the tending of wounds and the offer of forgiveness is being prevented.
Pray for a sudden swinging open of that closed off space – that will have you jumping out of your skin to begin with – and then leaping for joy with what lies the other side of the threshold.