Summary: References the movie "Panic Room" (Jodie Foster). Recalls the disciples’ reaction to hide out in a locked room after finding the tomb empty. The "Panic Room" can be both a safe haven and a well-fortressed prison.
"Panic Room" - Easter 2A
April 7, 2002 - John 20:19-31
This week I saw the newly-released movie "Panic Room". In this movie, "Jodie Foster plays a wealthy single mom with a teenage daughter. They buy a fancy brownstone in NYC that has a ’panic room’, a fortified hi-tech room in the center of the house where you can go if you are in danger." (Howard Chapman, SERMONSHOP) This "panic room" has provisions, a separate phone line, and video monitors of the whole house. It is intended to be a safe, secure hideaway in which to hole up until danger passes. As the plot unfolds in the movie, bad guys show up and the women have to get to the panic room for safety. But (without giving away more than the movie’s own trailer gives away) what the mother and daughter find out is that the "panic room" can become both a safe haven and a trap. That which keeps them safe also keeps them entrapped.
In today’s gospel lesson, the disciples have sought out their own "panic room". They are holed up in the Upper Room, locked away "for fear of the Jews". They hope to wait ’til danger passes before they come out into the light of day. We do not know how long they would have remained locked inside before they finally let down their guard and decided to emerge from their fortress. We will never know, because the risen Jesus did the unthinkable. He appeared suddenly to them, in spite of the locked doors. In the midst of this safe, secure, tightly locked "panic room", Jesus came and stood among them. He intruded on their space, invading their safe and secure hiding place.
What are you hiding today? What have you locked away for fear of other people’s reactions? Where is your "panic room"? You feel safe, but only because you’ve so shut out the rest of the world. You rest secure, because you have seven deadbolts plus a chain lock keeping everyone out. Characteristic of Jesus throughout the gospels, he is not content to let us seal ourselves away in a silent cocoon of "safety". He will not let us hide ourselves silently away out of fear. He walks right into the "panic rooms" we have set up to keep ourselves "safe", the rooms that really trap us and keep us from living freely.
Every Sunday morning, we share the Peace as part of our worship service with a handshake and a word of peace. The story has been told of a church in the Pacific Northwest, which participates in the same custom. When they share the peace, they are exuberant and enthusiastic. They leave their pews to embrace one another. Newcomers are warmly welcomed with a kind word, a handshake, or a hug.
"Nobody in this church thought much about the weekly ritual of passing the peace until the pastor received a letter from a man who had recently joined the congregation. This man was a promising young lawyer from a prestigious downtown law firm. He drafted a brief but pointed letter on his firm’s letterhead. "I am writing to complain about the congregational ritual known as ’passing the peace,’" he wrote. "I disagree with it, both personally and professionally, and I am prepared to take legal action to cause this practice to cease."
When the pastor phoned to talk with the lawyer about the letter, he asked why the man was so disturbed. The lawyer said, "The passing of the peace is an invasion of my privacy."
The pastor’s response to the lawyer was right on target. He said, "Like it or not, when you joined the church you gave up some of your privacy, for we believe in a risen Lord who will never leave us alone." Then he added, "You never know when Jesus Christ will intrude on us with a word of peace." (William G. Carter, Water Won’t Quench the Fire, CSS Publishing Company.)
Christ butts into our most secluded places. Thanks be to God for that. Christ intervenes in our well-fortressed lives. He will not leave us abandoned or forsaken. He interferes in our lives because it’s his job! We might like to say, "Jesus, it’s none of your business! Don’t invade my privacy!" But what does Jesus bring into those "panic rooms"? He brings a word of peace. If you are anxious, and paralyzed by fear, Jesus brings peace. If you are besieged by financial worries, trapped by debt or financial obligations, Jesus brings peace. If you are haunted by family stresses or relationship strains, Jesus brings peace. It doesn’t magically transform everything in an instant, but Jesus’ presence does change things. The disciples go from fearful to faithful in just a few weeks. They go from being locked up to being sent out in just a few days. The Resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference to them - and to us.