Resurrection Words – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 5: 27-32
Psalm 118
Revelation 1: 4-8
John 20: 19-31

Something strange is happening.

Something strange is happening. A band of terrified, grieving women and men who spend most of their time behind locked doors in fear, are changing. Their fear is changing into faith. Their terror is changing into courage. Their grief is changing into joy. And soon, no door could keep them in, and no door would be able to keep them,or their message out.

Something strange is happening, and it begins with the resurrection greeting: Peace be with you!

The story wasn’t supposed to unfold this way. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die. The crowd was supposed to acclaim him as king, and together they were supposed to chase the Romans out, and once again God’s people would be free. But Jesus did die. He died cruelly, publically and shamefully. And his band of followers fled in all directions in fear and terror that the same would happen to them. In their grief, terror and fear they went into hiding behind locked doors

And into the midst of their fear and grief and terror came words of peace.

Peace be with you!

Something strange is happening.

It’s hard to imagine the terror this band of disciples felt after the shock and horror of it all. But we all have an inkling of what it was like, for each of us carries deep within us a primal fear: a fear of being found out; a fear of being caught; a fear of being discovered. I know I do. And into that fear, Jesus speaks words of peace. Peace be with you!

Today we watch this encounter between Jesus and Thomas unfold before us and we see fear become faith, terror become courage, grief become joy and soon no locked door will be able to keep him in. And no locked door be able to keep him, or his words of hope, out. And the change all begins with the resurrection greetingPeace be with you!

With those four simple words Jesus shows that death and hate and the grave cannot defeat him. With those four simple words Jesus shows that fear and grief and terror and locked doors cannot keep him out. With those four simple words Jesus shows that the power of God is mightier than the forces of Rome. With those four simple words Jesus shows his disciples that he is risen from the dead. Peace be with you….Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

It’s not that Thomas didn’t want to believe. It’s not even that he couldn’t believe. It’s not even that he wouldn’t believe. It’s that he didn’t dare believe. Thomas didn’t dare believe because he didn’t want his hopes dashed and his heart broken one more time. But in a word, in a phrase, his hope was restored and his heart healed: Peace be with you….My Lord and my God.

If we all know what it is to live in the fear of being caught, then we also know what it is to live with hopes dashed and hearts broken. We all know those days when we are afraid to believe, not because we don’t want to believe, or can’t believe, or won’t believe, but because we dare not believe. We too are afraid that our hopes will be dashed and our hearts broken one more time and so like Thomas we dare not believe. And into the midst of this fear to believe, stands the Risen Lord speaking words of peace.Peace be with you!

Geoffrey you know this fear as well as any. When you became Superior, the building was literally falling down around us. Men were leaving. No new vocations were coming. We didn’t know what to do, or where to turn. We were trapped in our fear: fear of doing something; fear of doing nothing. And into the midst of that fear you spoke to us the resurrection greeting: Peace be with you! And something strange happened.

Hope was renewed. Fear was turned to faith. Hearts were healed. And today signs of new life abound. During your time as Superior, five men have come … and have stayed. The building stands tall and we have the resources and a plan to maintain it, so that in sixty years another generation of monks won’t be wondering what to do with a falling down building. There is a renewed sense of vision, purpose and life in the community. And people all over the world are being fed by words of hope; words of encouragement; words of love; words of faith, words of God.

Words have power. They have the power to hurt and the power to heal. They have the power to cast down and the power to raise up. They have the power to make new. Geoffrey, thank you for speaking to us your brothers, to us who are gathered here, to us whom you have served, resurrection words. In speaking them to us you have shown us the power of God, who, as Thomas discovered today, has the power to make all things new.

Something strange has happened. Fear has turned to faith. Grief has turned to joy. Terror has turned to courage. Locked doors, meant to keep things out, cannot now keep things in. Something strange has happened because in our midst the Risen Lord speaks to us words of peace.

Peace be with you!the Risen Lord says to each of us. And in those words we know the power of the resurrection and can say with Thomas, My Lord and my God!


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  1. Jane Lindberg on April 17, 2023 at 13:53

    As well as the wonderful SSJE meditations, I also receive Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation. Today’s meditation has good things in store for you as you mourn. (“Blessed are those who mourn.”) It is a reflection on the importance of lamentation. I have copied in some of his words below. You may want to go the CAC website as well.

    Richard Rohr considers lamentation’s spiritual power:

    “There is one strong form of biblical prayer that has been almost completely overlooked by the Christian tradition, maybe because it feels more like pre-prayer than what we usually think of as prayer at all. Let’s call it lamentation or grief work, and it is almost perfectly described in the Mary Oliver epigraph above.

    Lamentation prayer is when we sit and speak out to God and one another—stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. It might actually be the most honest form of prayer. It takes great trust and patience … so I think it is actually profound prayer, but most of us have not been told that we could, or even should, “complain” to God. I suspect we must complain like Job, Judith, and Jeremiah, or we do not even know what to pray for—or how to pray. Or we do not suffer the necessary pain of this world, the necessary sadness of being human.

    About one-third of the Psalms are psalms of “lament,” but they have been the least used in Catholic and Protestant liturgies. We think, perhaps, they express sinful anger or negativity, when grief and loss are actually something quite different. We think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, and most of us don’t want to go there. We think, perhaps, they show a lack of faith, whereas they are probably the summit of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving, even when it is often dishonest emotion. We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:4). We forget that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentations.” [1] “

  2. Maryan Davis on April 17, 2023 at 06:51

    May the Peace only Christ can give be with you all this day and everyday!

  3. Malcolm Hayes on April 17, 2023 at 03:42

    Thank you for this comforting reflection- our Father in heaven surrounds us with his comforting peace – I am a father of three children under five years old and the whole experience has revived in me a realisation of the power of comforting peace. I am from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and became aware of your community in a book by Margeret Guenther- I have been to Boston many times and even was in city hall in Cambridge at my best friends wedding- so now I get your reflections and they are v encouraging- bless you

  4. Joan todd on April 28, 2021 at 16:54

    This reading came at a particularly hard time I’m having today .I suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and am coping with a resurgence of troubling symptoms. Envisioning Jesus standing in the midst of my fear and pain saying Peace be with you is more comforting than I can express .Thank you to Br.James and to all the Brothers who lift me up each day with words of strength and comfort .Joan Todd .

  5. Marilyn Bergen on April 28, 2021 at 10:11

    I thank you for this reflection. Although I have been following these now for years, I don’t remember this one. So, it was meant for today, some 5 years later. This Pandemic time has been a time of fear for so many, yet your community of Brothers have created opportunity out of this fearful time. Your offerings of services online and classes like the Gospel of John and Centering Prayer are wonderful examples of reaching out to your community near and far. I am grateful for all that you have offered us in this difficult time. The Lord is Risen indeed! Peace to each one.

  6. Jennifer on April 10, 2016 at 10:38

    Though I rarely comment, I thank all of the SSJE brothers for your ministry and especially the sermons which you ahare with us daily. For me, they are consistently the best source of source of devotional/inspirational reading, which often leads me into Bible reading, journal time, reflection and prayer. They are a vital part of my “rule of life.” Thank you.

  7. Wendy on April 9, 2016 at 13:32

    If ever I needed Peace it is now. My husband died 3/9 and I am feeling nothing except numbness. I am waiting for terror, fear, hope, joy, forgiveness, love and most of all Peace. I know it will come as “something strange has happened”….as I write this I have started to cry for the first time in four weeks.
    Peace be with you.

  8. Naida K Hernandez on April 5, 2016 at 22:24

    If the Brothers of SSJE have any doubts as to the powerful and life sustaining gifts they bestow please accept my deepest expression of gratitude. You could not begin to know what a tremendous blessing you are to so very many lives. God bless all of you and please continue with you so very important mission. You are the living expression of God s great love. Thank you. Naida

  9. Ruth West on April 5, 2016 at 21:28

    I love the time in our church service when we pass the peace of the Lord to each other. It so shows forth His love and our love for one another.
    To you, Brother James, may His peace be with you!

  10. Nicki Bourne on April 5, 2016 at 15:28

    Brother Geoffrey,
    Thank you from central NH, for all you have done to lift the Monastery back onto its feet. Something I never knew you were challenged with! My only venture inside the walls was at the age of 16, in 1951, with my Trinity Church, Concord, MA, youth group, for a literal, “awesosme” evening first in the chapel and then at supper. I’ve forgotten all details except the black and white tiled floor in the chapel. I wasn’t sure I could stay still/quiet, as instructed by our ETS student, group mentor who brought us, so I must have concentrated hard on those!
    Fast forward, I recall my recent acquaintance, through the web; “Thought for a Day”, last year’s Lenten series, then Advent, and now this year’s Lenten Practice all have been more helpful to me than I could possibly explain.
    This year’s Garden work has been particularly inspiring, because of the tough questions. I’ve taken a number of them to my therapy sessions, because answers that came during journaling helped me address issues that have been stubbornly packed away and strongly resisting being aired – chiefly I did not dare visit them! It is so simple to see now and to say! We can make such a mountain out of a mole hill. Simple yes, though it is very hard work, and this Lent’s Practice has helped me immensely.
    I wasn’t able to write my gratitude to you and all the other brothers who deserve it, because it is such hard work, that I guess I decided to stay in the trenches and not lift myself up to addressing my gratitude while hard at it. I am still only in the first week of March, plugging away, and I am grateful.
    Thank you Brother James for this wonderful, informative and inspiring sermon. One of the most precious elements of all Brothers’ writings is their graceful and wanted admission of being human. That’s what makes me feel so comfortable about consulting the pages of your website and hungrily reading your sermons. They are real, not preached from some lofty place. And I feel tremendously lucky to be able to “tune in” whenever I want to.
    Peace be with you all!

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