April 24, 2022, “Stop!” by Rev. Dr. Tom Eggebeen

Posted on May 10, 2022 @ 9:19 pm


Psalm 118.14-29; John 20.19-31


Have you ever noticed how many things come in threes?

Grace, mercy, and peace.

Faith, hope, and love.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Mother, The Child, and their love.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah.

How about:

Morning, noon, and night.

Past, present, and future.


We live in three dimensions.

On a personal level, first name, middle name, last name.

By the way, do you know why we give children a middle name?

So they’ll know when we’re angry with them.

Yes, lots of things comes in threes …

Including my sermons:

Several weeks ago a three-part series: On your mark, get set, go.

And today, a new series: Stop, Look, and Listen.

Today, we stop … sometimes we go … today, we stop!

I stop here for a sidebar comment … a comment about our reading this morning, from John’s Gospel … a little phrase, the doors of the house … were locked – for fear of the Jews.

Who are the Jews? Well, in this case, they’re everyone in the story …

Those hiding behind locked doors, those threatening them, and Jesus himself – always and forever, Jews!

So, who are the Jews?

We know the Jews who are hiding behind locked doors – the disciples – from Galilee in the north.

So, who are the “Jews” threatening them? They are the political and religious elite of Jerusalem – cozied up to the Roman Empire, in cahoots with Pontius Pilate.

By the early 4th Century, after Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity – things changed … the Roman Empire wanted to be “the good guy,” and so an enemy was needed, and no handier enemy than “the Jews” – the Jewish elite of Jerusalem.

It wasn’t long before “Christ Killers” and “filthy Jews” became by-words of the Christian Church.

And all that followed: pogroms, killings, beatings and burnings … the outcome reached in the 20th Century with Nazi Germany and the death camps – 6 million Jews killed by a “christian” nation – with collaboration throughout “christian” Europe – the French, the Dutch; Poland, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Norway  … here in the states, our own tragic history of anti-Semitism – Jews excluded from universities and country clubs, denied promotions and homes … I grew up with expressions … expressions I never thought about, expressions of contempt for the Jew.

Contempt spreads … it’s a contagion, a virus …

From despising Jews in “christian” Europe to contempt and mistreatment of people all around the world … Portugal and Spain in the Americas … Belgium in the Congo; the British in Rhodesia and South Africa and India … here in the States, many groups have suffered, and continue to suffer: Indigenous Peoples, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans … in this very moment, in churches across the land, LGBTQ persons – despised … trans children and their parents – condemned … and in many “christian” quarters, guess what? Women … women still feel the sting of male domination, male contempt … all in the name of the Jesus, with Bible verses quoted to back it all up.

Is this the gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ? Is this the world we want to live in? Is this what it means to be a Christian?

We face the truth … truth liberates … part of the truth is how we read the Bible, how others read it, and the challenge: to bring a better reading of the Bible to bear upon our times.

To practice the deep ethics of love:

To embrace rather than exclude;

To love rather than condemn.

In our text this morning, nothing about race, or ethnicity – it’s Galileans from the north pitted against the Judeans of the south – all of the same blood, with different perspectives …

I fault John for not making it clear … I fault the Christian Church all the more for its tragic treatment of the Jews …

We should have done better!

For millions, it’s too late, but we can still change, we can grow, we can do a better of job of it, for the future to come.

With that said, let’s get to the point … a tremendous point:

The love of God moves toward those who are frightened!

God is near to us in the midst of our fear … that’s what John wants to say, and we say it today … God is near to us in the midst of our fear! Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

Yet … we have to be careful … careful for what we expect … remember from a few weeks ago: hope has to be grounded in reality.

There’s no intent in the Bible to minimize danger, to ignore difficulty, pain, sorrow, or suffering, to pretend that the world is anything less than it is … what we have here is an effort to MANAGE the fear.

Fear is a good and healthy response, but fear unmanaged distorts our perceptions … fear is like a magnifying glass held over a tiny insect – in the glass, the tiny insect seems to be a giant, a monster … but the image of the insect in the glass is inaccurate.

I awaken in the night; things I fear roll around in my head like bowling balls crashing into the pins, growing larger, and more distressing by the moment … my soul fills with noise, my body perspires … the signs of fear, fear out of control.

Which is why FDR said at the start of WW2, “the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself.”

With that, we return to the point of the day: Stop.


The Supremes sang, 1965:

Stop! In the name of love

Before you break my heart

Stop! In the name of love

Before you break my heart

Think it over

Think it over

Let this be a think-it-over moment, a sabbath moment – a deep breath, consider where we’ve been, where we are, where we need to go.

Today, we stop … to hear the words of Jesus, Peace be with you.”

We stop, in the name of love, so no more hearts are broken.

We stop, to start all over again … with a little more insight than we had yesterday; a little more understanding of how things have worked out, how things can be changed, and made better  … a fresh resolve to live well, to be a person of knowledge and wisdom, gratitude and grace, prayer and kindness, conscience and compassion.

The love of God is near … and when we’re afraid, God is nearer still.

Peace be with you!

And let’s build our world anew.

Amen and Amen!