Blown Away

The peace Christ give us heals the fear and cynicism of the world. This peace builds bridges of trust and allows us to walk together to the Father. His peace allows us to continue to believe and to hold on to his very life. Jesus did not give the disciples the Spirit’s power so that they could stay behind locked doors in fear. It is given as a power to move people out into the world — even if we don’t always know exactly where we will end up.


 

 

It all goes back to something the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, says occurred in the upper room in Jerusalem. The creativity Jesus released in that little room in Jerusalem when he breathed on his disciples shaped and reshaped the world for centuries.

 

John 20: 19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 

You can’t imagine our culture without the experience of those few folks who locked themselves into that room. The great cathedrals, our legal and judicial systems, our whole understanding of morality, our arts, Dante, Shakespeare, Bach, Mozart, the modern university system, the healing professions, social services, the idea of a United Nations, world service organizations – none of them would have happened without the enduring breath of Christ. And that heritage keeps being renewed. This is why there’s a resurgence of religious interest in our own time. The creative power is still there. It’s still at work in our lives and culture. World wide, the power and creativity of the Christian faith are enjoying one of the most remarkable resurgence anybody could have imagined. Why is that? What’s the secret of Christianity’s enduring dynamism?

After the crucifixion of Jesus the disciples gathered in that room with the windows and doors tightly locked. In his gospel, John gave the reason the followers gathered together behind those locked doors. They feared the Jewish leadership. “If they killed Jesus,” they reasoned, “the leadership would certainly be looking for us.” But barred doors made Jesus’ followers look suspicious. At the time, trust within the Jewish community was built on open access. Doors were never locked. Neighbor children could enter one’s house at will. Jews lived private lives in the open. Anyone who locked their doors, except for the rural families who lived miles from their neighbor, cut themselves off from community. We do not know what Christ’s risen body was like. We are told that the risen Jesus could be touched by his followers. His body still had the wounds of his passion. Yet he entered secured rooms at will and appeared to his followers as he wished. His body was not limited by space and time. While his body possessed signs of his past, it was transformed to a new plane. As we said last Sunday, Jesus was the same but different.

 

Even though the doors were locked Jesus suddenly appeared in the gathering and greeted his followers with ” Shalom.”

or “Peace to you”. Later, in rabbinic Hebrew this phrase became a standard greeting. Here, it can hardly be called routine; it bears more similarities to Old Testament angelic appearances like in Judges 6 when the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon and said “Peace to you, do not be afraid, you shall not die!” Daniel is similarly reassuring experience. The phrase spoken here by the resurrected Jesus to the disciples must surely have been intended to reassure and calm them. Shalom (“peace” in Hebrew) meant God was at work in the world. When God worked the world was in balance. No war, no hatred, no cynicism could overcome God’s providence. When God worked, the spirit was in balance. No fear, no doubt, no lack of trust could overcome the sheer joy of God’s presence. Shalom meant everything was right in God’s world.

 

Seeing Jesus alive with his deadly wound his followers realized the “Shalom” of Jesus, for they witnessed God’s activity in the world. Fear left them, for now they believed. Joy entered their hearts. So he greeted them with the greeting “Shalom” and showed them the wounds in his hands and side. He told them he was sending them out just as his Father had sent him. And then he did a very odd thing. John tells us “he breathed on them.”

What was that about? Our word “inspiration,” comes from the Latin in spirare, “to breathe into.” Jesus was inspiring the disciples by breathing his own breath into them. It’s a wonder this didn’t become a sacrament of the church, because it set into motion one of the most powerful forces the human spirit has ever known. Jesus breathed on the disciples and started a revolution of creativity that has never stopped.

Where is that spirit operating now? What will its new manifestations be? That’s the trick, isn’t it, to try to see it, to anticipate it, before it happens. To guess which way the wind of the Spirit is blowing, which way the power of God is going is anybody’s guess. If the past is any guide, the Spirit of God will be made manifest in such creative ways that we’ll be totally surprised. It will be something we probably never could have expected.

 

With the new globalism causing a collapse of old economic and political barriers fifty years from now we’ll see a Christianity vastly transformed by a new openness to other religions and its desire to relate to them in the quest for a new and higher form of spirituality. And that’s frightening to a lot of people. That is why fundamentalism is so strong in our country. People are scared of the unknown. They cling desperately to what they regard as the great pillars of their own faith and hope, if not believe, the world will come to an end if those pillars are threatened in any way. That accounts for why the Left Behind books are so popular. They convince frightened church people that the world is about to come to an end because their old religious culture is under siege. And it isn’t just in our country. There’s a brand of fundamentalism in almost every religion in the world right now. That’s why Islamic fundamentalists have been so successful in rallying Muslim fanatics against western societies. They too are afraid of the collapse of the only culture they have known.

I’m going to suggest that this frightening time we are in is a great creative opportunity, an historic openness, and the inspiration breathed into the apostles all those centuries ago is still alive today, and it will respond to the opportunity by forging a new Christian faith for a new era. It will produce new understandings of the world, and new theologies and ethics, and new forms of worship and devotion, and new societies for advancing all of these.

 

For a second time, Jesus, in

reassuring the disciples said “Shalom” or “Peace to you” and this time with a gift and a command. The command: Go into the world. As the Father sent Jesus into the physical world, Jesus would now send his followers into the cultural world. [20:21] And with the command came the gift: the Holy Spirit. In Greek and Hebrew the word “spirit” can be translated as “breath” In 20:22, the word “breathe on” in Greek can be seen only here and in Genesis 2:7 of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Bible used by the early Church) where God breathed life into Adam. So, when Jesus breathed on his followers, he gave them his Spirit. When the followers took in the Spirit, they received his newly risen life. [20:22] Now they could obey the missionary command to proclaim repentance and forgive sin. There is nothing in the context to suggest that we should limit the words of the commission only to the Twelve so more than likely these words are for all of Jesus’ followers, including us.

reassuring the disciples said “Shalom” or “Peace to you” and this time with a gift and a command. The command: Go into the world. As the Father sent Jesus into the physical world, Jesus would now send his followers into the cultural world. [20:21] And with the command came the gift: the Holy Spirit. In Greek and Hebrew the word “spirit” can be translated as “breath” In 20:22, the word “breathe on” in Greek can be seen only here and in Genesis 2:7 of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Bible used by the early Church) where God breathed life into Adam. So, when Jesus breathed on his followers, he gave them his Spirit. When the followers took in the Spirit, they received his newly risen life. [20:22] Now they could obey the missionary command to proclaim repentance and forgive sin. There is nothing in the context to suggest that we should limit the words of the commission only to the Twelve so more than likely these words are for all of Jesus’ followers, including us.

John Killinger reminded us not too long ago that some fifty years ago religious prognosticators of all varieties were warning that Christianity was dying. John Spong alerted us to it in his Christianity Must Change or Die. Harvey Cox wrote in The Secular City that we had entered a new era, in which people were learning to live without religion. Well, any religion that he had ever witnessed before. Today we have some new language that helps us grasp the dramatic nature of the changes that are happening among the communities of faith even as we speak. Events of the last few years certainly testify that religion hasn’t died. Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ stirred a remarkable controversy as did Kazantzakis’ movie Last Temptation of Christ. In Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, we were introduced to the idea that Jesus’ bride Mary Magdalene escaped to France with their child to become the center of a secret society. That certainly captured our attention. And how about the incredible success of the Left Behind series that sold more than forty million copies and helped create the pro-Israel “rapture mentality” of right-wing America.

Three hundred years after the event chronicled in our text for today the Christian church became the most powerful influence in the world. It shaped the art and thought of the Middle Ages. It led to the founding of the great universities. Our culture in America grew out of the Christian Reformation. Even when the world began to look more secular, the basic foundations of art and education and medicine and philanthropy all came from Christianity.

What changed the disciples from fearful (hiding behind locked doors) to fearless witnesses in the world?” They had all been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus did not give the disciples the Spirit’s power so that they could stay behind locked doors in fear. It is given as a power to move people out into the world — even if we don’t always know exactly where we will end up.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Pastor's Page. Bookmark the permalink.