It’s Easter evening, and the disciples are afraid. No, make that terrified. They are speaking in whispers—better safe than sorry, even with the door securely locked.

Of course, Jesus’ disciples are terrified. Their friend and savior was just put to death as an insurrectionist—at least, this was Rome’s verdict. Thus the crucifix. Thus the gruesome spectacle. The disciples’ close association with the recently executed Jesus puts them at great risk. They could be next.

Likely you have heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate but rather fear. And what happens when we are seriously afraid? We can lose touch with the love that is always holding us and the peace that is perpetually available to us.

When we are experiencing fear, our nervous systems go on high alert. Our thoughts race. Our hearts pound. Our mouths turn into cotton. When we are feeling fearful, we can lose our way. We can lose ourselves.

And so it is with the disciples. On edge, afraid for their very lives, everything that Jesus had tried to give is temporarily unavailable. Fear has crowded out Christ’s love. Fear has driven off Christ’s peace.

Enter Jesus—and just in time. The newly Risen One comes to his closest friends. And what does he do?

First, let us consider what Jesus does not do. Jesus does not scold. He does not shame. He does not shout at his friends for their failures in love in those hours when he most needed them. Jesus does not do any of that.

What does the Risen One do? When he finds his friends immobilized by fear, he takes swift, loving action. The newly Risen Christ shows the disciples his raw wounds as if to say, “Yes, it really is me, alive in your midst again, just as I said would happen.”

“Peace be with you,” Jesus then says, breaking the disciple’s fear-spell. The men begin rejoicing.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says again. This time, he breathes his Spirit into them. And when this happens, it’s as if someone has just opened the shuttered windows and unlocked the heavy door. The life in these men returns, love too. With his presence, with his peace, Jesus has just rolled away their stone. He has just invited his friends out of their tomb.

Those of you who know me know that I have a bias when it comes to scripture. It has always been clear to me that no Bible passage should be trapped in amber to examine as if it were an artifact.

On this Sunday nine years ago, scripture’s truth very much wanted to come to life in and around us. We weren’t even a year old yet. Our lesson that morning was our lesson today.

My message that Sunday almost a decade ago was a response to something that had happened in worship the Sunday prior—which was Easter.

During announcements, I shared that we would soon be going as a congregation to march in Colorado West’s second annual Pride Parade in Grand Junction.

But instead of eliciting excitement, as I had imagined, this unexpected news had the opposite effect on some. It triggered fear.

You could see the questions swirling. Would we be safe? What if we didn’t want to go? What if what we found when we got there was too wild or weird, too uncomfortable or unfamiliar? What if we got pushback from the wider community or, worse, from angry Christians who might get in our faces, who might go to great lengths to proclaim the parade an abomination and everyone in it hell-bound?

The lesson we leaned into that Sunday after Easter was the same as today’s, and believe me, it was a godsend. Why? It gave us a way to look at our fears, all of which were understandable.

Our fears then were similar to the disciples’ fears. In ways we might not have been able to put into words at the time, like those disciples, we too were afraid of being found out. Of being found out as allies to the LGBTQ community. Of being found out as Christians called to be in solidarity with those who are among the most misunderstood and who are all too often rejected or reviled.

Locked doors aren’t all that different than closet doors, I said that morning nine years ago. Staying hidden is a way to stay safe, but it’s no way to live. This was true for us, and most certainly, it was (and sadly remains) true for the LGBTQIA community on this side of the Rockies.

Inspired by our lesson that morning, I went on to say something I was afraid to say but very much felt called to voice: we must never ask the LGBTQIA community to have more courage than we do.

Said another way, we must not ask the gay community to come out of their closets so that we, in turn, can follow suit. No. It falls to us to face our fears, to out ourselves as allies, so that the way is paved for our LGBT siblings to step out of the shadows and into the fullness of life.

Not everyone went to Grand Junction that first time. And we were all OK with this. Some stayed in Montrose that morning, worshiping with the Quakers who were meeting elsewhere in our building.

Some went to Junction but were not comfortable marching, so these CSCers and their friends stood on the sidelines to cheer us as we passed by with our colorful banner and rainbow pinwheels.

Others of us marched. Yes, we were a little shaky at first, but we grew in confidence with each passing block.

By the time we got to the end of the parade route, any uncertainty we might have had turned into a fountain of joy.

We had indeed done something new and challenging, and—thanks be to God, thanks be to the Risen One—our worst fears had not come to pass, and instead, our spirits were set to shining.

Since that day in Grand Junction nine years ago, and in many other ways over the years, we have received Christ’s breath; we have taken his peace into our collective lungs.

Many times over the years, we have chosen to move beyond our fears so that we might step out of the familiarity and safety of our worship space into a world that keeps needing what we, as a Christian community, have been given to share.

Yes, our knees have sometimes knocked while standing on the corner of Main and Townsend, holding signs that not everyone might agree with.

Yes, we have leaned on each other’s daring to sometimes do or say what has not always been easy or comfortable.

But along the way, again and again, we have found the Christ who comes to us when we are willing to stand up and stand out.

Year after year, we have learned to receive the peace Christ breathes into us so that we can do in our time what Jesus and his disciples did in theirs—insist that love indeed does win.

It’s been a good long while since we were unsure about marching in Pride. But when some new opportunity presents itself, we can still find ourselves a little fearful, not entirely sure we are ready to be found out.

This might have been the case with the meetings the Library Board held recently.

When we heard that a segment of the community was pushing for certain LBGTQ-affirming books to be kept off the shelves,

when we heard that they were also actively questioning the Library’s offering of inclusive, age-appropriate programming, we were privately concerned.

But not all of us were thrilled at the thought of showing up and standing out to offer visible support for the Library and, by extension, our LGBTQIA siblings.

And yet we still went to the Board’s meetings, even though we knew tensions would likely be high. Our breathing might have been shallow, and our hearts might have been racing, but we went.

Not only did we go, but we also went wearing rainbow “You’re Save with Me” pins. Pins that quietly outed us as allies. Pins that made it clear that we weren’t simply private citizens but part of a community of some sort.

Did those pins make a difference? You bet they did.

They certainly made a difference to us. And they also made a difference to the Library staff, who recognized in our presence a kind of allyship that boosted their morale, their courage, and their resolve.

And I would certainly hope these pins made a difference to a part of our community who lives in fear of being condemned and, sometimes, being harmed.

Please don’t misunderstand me this morning. Fear is not an enemy. Fear is sometimes what keeps us safe, something that author and lecturer Gavin DeBeker has repeatedly insisted on. His book, The Gift of Fear, has been a godsend for many.

Fear can and does tell us things our rational minds cannot, and in this way, fear can be a profound resource.

Fear is what can steer us away from danger and even keep us alive—something you may know from your own lived experience.

Even still, our fears can and do get the better of us. Our fears can and do distort perceptions. They give us visions of what could come to pass and then insist that those imaginings are true. If you’ve ever been kept awake at night by unchecked fear, you know the alternate realities that fear quickly summons and then offers as the truth.

Not all fears are created equal. Not all fears are there to save us or spare us in the way that DeBeker outlines.

Think of all that would have been lost to us if we had believed what our fears told us nine years ago. Think of all the ways we would not have grown or been blessed. Think of all the people who would be left waiting for hope and healing had we not found a way through our fears to step out into the world to BE the church. To BE Christ in this hurting world. To BE the love that we are convinced really does win.

Sometimes fear keeps us safe. But other times, it holds us hostage.

When as a church, we find ourselves afraid or simply unsure, we know the time has come to breathe. To breathe in Christ’s peace. To set in Christ’s wounded hands, whatever might have us feeling uncertain or unsafe, trapped inside a room that may be far too small for our souls and the expansive love Christ has placed in our hearts.

Remember—the Risen One did not shame his friends for being afraid. For locking themselves away to keep themselves safe.

Instead, the Risen Christ sought them out and gave them something better than fear. He gave them himself, his peace, his presence. He gave them a way forward.

And he does the same now. As we can gladly, joyfully attest. Amen.