the one about peace and breath...
April 9, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from April 8, 2018

Text: John 20: 19-31


Grace and peace to each of you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Risen Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, there are a few texts that we hear every year as we gather for worship week in and week out. There’s the story of our Lord’s birth – those are the same texts every year. There’s the reading about discipleship that we hear on Ash Wednesday as we begin Lent each year. And, there is even this text from John’s Gospel – this story of the disciples’ immediate response to the news of Jesus’ resurrection – that we hear every year on the second Sunday of Easter.

Now, I know there are a few reasons for this. Logically, it makes a lot of sense. It’s the story that immediately follows the first preaching of Jesus’ resurrection according to John’s gospel. Mary and the women preach Jesus’ new life and then we get the immediate response. It’s the logical and chronological next step.

Hearing this story every 2nd Sunday of Easter is also practical as well. Many, many pastors after the grand festival of Easter naturally take this Sunday off, so it gives those who are supplying for this Sunday a ‘go-to’ text that they don’t have to worry and fret over too much.

But, though I think each of those logical and practical reasons to hear this text each year are valid, there is another reason that I think might get to the ‘root’ of why we hear this text so often. I think spiritually, we need to hear this text as often as we can. And it isn’t for the reason that this text is usually titled and preached more often than it should.

I want to ask y’all a question. When you receive wonderful news – unexpected news – how do you usually respond? What happens in your brain and in your life when you hear news that you never thought could be possible, yet it is headed your way?

Around this time of year, I love to watch videos on the internet about kids receiving the news that they got into the college they’ve always wanted to be a part of. Whether it be Harvard, Stanford, or even the premiere of the premiere – Newberry College. I love watching the reaction of those who receive that good news.

Sure, many are surrounded by exuberant and celebratory family members and friends, but – most of the time – if you watch the one who the good news is about, they kind of sit dumbfounded. They’re rooted in their spot with an astonished look upon their face. Everyone may be getting super emotional around them, yet they are left with this kind of non-emotional face of ‘whoa.’

It’s as if they cannot believe that it is really real. It really happened. Now what do they do?

How do y’all react when you get that sort of news?

Do you doubt that this could be true? Do you fall down exasperated? Are you so overcome with emotion – and such full emotion – that you root in one spot trying to figure it all out?

I think all the disciples are experiencing those things as they cower in a locked room. They’ve heard this amazing news, and they don’t know what to do. They gather in fear, in confusion, in exasperation on what to do next.

What does it all mean.

I cannot imagine all the emotions and thoughts that are running through their minds. I think we like to believe that we would be hooping and hollering and out shouting the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, but in actuality, I feel we might have a lot more in common with our disciples than we care to admit.

It’s dangerous stuff to proclaim to the world that the one that the powerful of the world killed isn’t dead anymore. It just might be why they are locked in fear.

So, all these emotions, feelings, and thoughts are coursing through these close friends of Jesus and they don’t know what to do. And this is the moment that Jesus appears to them.

In the midst of their biggest (up to that point) struggle, as they’re trying to cope with the reality of what they saw and experienced – Jesus’ death, with the story of the good news preached to them from the women who went to the tomb – that is when Jesus comes alongside them.

Think about that.

Today, the world likes to tell us that ­when you get your house in order, when you get the lines straightened out, when you come to your senses – that’s when Jesus shows up. Once you pull yourself up by your proverbial boot-straps, that is when God shows up. Once you’re ‘clean and presentable’ that’s when Jesus enters into your life.

Yet, that cannot be further from the truth. It isn’t scriptural, it isn’t biblical, it isn’t a faithful interpretation of what we read of in our history of faith.

Jesus enters into this moment of ‘chaos’ experienced by his disciples and friends, and what are his first words in those moments?

Peace. Shalom. Health. Tranquility. Wholeness. Calm. Still. Quiet.

I’m here with you.

And with that word of peace, they are breathed upon.

Now, when I first read that many, many years ago my first reaction was, “Gross.” Give some personal space Lord.

Yet, as I’ve grown older, as I’ve cared and prayed for people, as I’ve become a parent, there is nothing that is quite as ‘peace giving’ as seeing someone you love to breathe. There are nights when I’m struggling the most that I just want to hear, feel, and see Erin and my children breathe. There is safety and security in those acts for me – and I would daresay for many of y’all as well.

In those moments in the hospital when a parent, friend, or child is laboring in sickness – the very first thing you want to see and hear is their breath rising and falling. There is comfort in that sight.

So, here among their struggle and excited joy, Jesus proclaims to them peace and in the midst of all those old and new emotions, he breathes on them.

He’s really, really, really here.

Now, of course Jesus breathing on and into his disciples is a bit different than me watching those in my family breathe, there is something else attached to this act as well.

Not only does it bring comfort and deeper peace to a life full of chaos in that moment, but we know that God’s Spirit moves creation to live life faithfully. The Spirit of God – she breathes us into moments and spaces to live according to God’s word. That breath pushes us into moments of holiness and strength with God. That breath moves us past the Monday after the resurrection – the fall from the celebratory high – to live into this new normal of resurrected life.

That breath of God which may put us in places that are uncomfortable and put us in confrontation with the powers that be in the world. But, we remember that our Lord offers peace and is breathing next to us, on us, and into us so that we might live into this new and renewed life of faith.

Caring for those on the outskirts, proclaiming this bold and dangerous good news, helping shape the narrative of the world so that others might know that there is another way at work.

The one that beats swords in to plowshares, the life that is lived for others and not for ourselves, the love that encompasses all and lived out for all. The life that is lived knowing that we are already good enough. Good enough already for our Lord to be with us. Good enough already to be sent to proclaim this good news. Good enough already to be loved fully and completely.

On this day, we get to experience the fullness of wholeness that our Lord gives to each of us. The Spirit has been breathed into the disciples and has been breathed and poured into us in our baptisms. We are fed at the table. We are nourished in the Word. We are sent from this place with the Spirit’s breath at our backs. Moving and guiding us to proclamation of God’s word, to live for others, to care for the world.

We hear this story every year on this second Sunday of Easter. We hear it because we easily forget that presence, that comfort, that peace. Yet, in spite of that forgetfulness, just as the disciples forgot about the promise of new life and resurrection – here again is our Lord appearing to us in numerous ways to give us – to speak to us – that peace once again. To breathe on and into us, to send us out into the world once again. Bringing us comfort, assurance, and mission to the world. Amen.

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