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24.8.14

The Doors Were Shut

The questions. What to wear, Will I fit in?


Your friends encourage you … ‘you will be fine’. Hair, shoes, make-up – that top – no the other one.

Will I like the music?

You arrive, there is short queue … and so the waiting. And then you are at the doors – guarded .. the doors are shut. You are looked up and down …

Deep breath. You are okay.

And the doors are shut behind you. – you are in .. you are welcomed …

And the music …



Well it’s probably best not to talk about the music.

And I have to say … I’m not sure if I am describing my first experience of a Goth club – or my first experiences of Church.

If you’ve never been to Whitby, or Slimelight, or another alternative or Goth club then the experience is hard to describe. The dress code, the door policy – very different to a mainstream club, the door shutting behind you and you enter this space that is somehow safe - somehow you.  Even if, like me, you are something of a weekender rather than a lifestyle Goth.

The alternative scene is a space where I have found you can turn up on your own, and meet people and feel welcome – feel a part. You travel light … well apart from the accessories. And the makeup bag.

And maybe we have all experienced that space – because for many Greenbelt feels like that.

You don’t need much here, to meet, to share, to bond.
Greenbelt. It’s like Whitby with less dressing up … and only slightly more drama amongst the organisers.

And if you are new to Greenbelt, and if you don’t know the Goth scene, then you are not getting the jokes right now and the references are excluding and you don’t feel a part, and the doors may feel shut in your face.

As in the Gospel also - The doors were shut.

Why were the doors shut? Why were the disciples locked away?
The earliest Christians, those first hearers of John’s Gospel would have got the reference right away. Because they had to lock the doors to be a part of the most important thing they did in worship. The sharing of bread and the sharing of wine, the sharing of God body and God blood.

Their worship was misunderstood, they were persecuted, thrown out, suspected, and accused.

And we are here - and the doors open as we do the same.
But elsewhere in the world Christians lock the doors to be a part of what we do. Or are forbidden, murdered, mutilated, crucified even.  As we look on at events in the oldest Christian communities, in Syria, in Iraq we feel powerless. We are all Nazarenes we proclaim, but even that seems a little empty.

In the Gospel, behind the locked doors Christ is present. Jesus comes and stands amongst them. I don’t think the first Christians messed about with spiritual presences or remembrances. No, it was shut doors, bread, wine, offering, prayers and Jesus is here.
And Jesus brings peace. He beats swords into ploughshares. Spears into pruning hooks. And we bring our swords and spears with us tonight. Are they swords and spears to harm others, or are they swords and spears to harm ourselves? Physical, spiritual, emotional, whatever – we all come tonight with weapons. Fully armed.

And the question has to be asked, cannot be avoided, if there were not the swords could there ever be the ploughshares, if we did not come carrying spears could there ever be pruning-hooks. If Adam had not fallen could Christ have risen?
And without our swords and without our spears could Christ have been wounded, his side pierced. Could the flesh have been torn that we eat this night? Could the blood and water poured out, that we drink this night?

And here is Thomas.

Is this Foolhardy Thomas who said to his fellow disciples ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ when Jesus was called to awaken Lazarus from death?

Is this Questioning Thomas who asks ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going? How can we know the way?’ when Christ speaks words of eternal life?

Is this Doubting Thomas who exclaims ‘Unless I put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe”?
Foolhardy? Questioning? Doubting? Perhaps the first hearers behind doors shut were all three Thomas’ as they gathered around bread and wine. And we are the same. Are we worthy to eat and drink? What does this mean? Is this really … real?
And Jesus responds, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.’

Those wounds, caused by spear and sword, the same spear and sword we carry. We are invited to place our hands inside them, an act more intimate than any other physical union:  To place our hands in another’s wound … a wound that we caused.

That is what we do tonight. In bread and wine we are fully a part of Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross and he still carries the wounds, as we still carry the wounds. Because tonight we bring our swords and spears to be transformed, but even afterwards we will know that they were once items of hurt, of harm, of destruction.

And still He says come. Be a part.

Foolhardy we may come, questioning we may come, doubting we may come, and in Body and Blood Christ meets with us, in intimacy and self-offering, in peace and sacrifice.
Jesus says to us this night:

“Do not doubt but believe!”

And in taking the bread and wine we lay down our weapons to be beaten anew, and respond with Thomas.

“My Lord and my God!”

Amen