Sunday Sermie: Sent!


Sermon Title: Sent
Gospel Lesson: John 20:19-30

I imagine you’ve experienced this before....Someone invites you over for dinner. Maybe it’s a friend or a family member. They cook an amazing meal! You have a salad first. Then the main course. With your favorite sides...mashed potatoes for me. It’s all so delicious and wonderful. Just when you are ready to pick up the dishes and help clean-up, the host says: “Wait! We aren’t done yet! There’s more. There’s dessert!”

The season of Easter stretches out for the next few weeks. So every Sunday, we will continue the Easter celebration here at church. Just when we thought Easter was over and we’re ready to pack up and move on, we hear our host, God, saying: “Wait! We aren’t done yet! There’s more to celebrate.”

That very first Easter day didn’t end with the resurrection of Jesus. There’s more to the story. There’s a whole other amazing encounter that took place that same day. But to savor this dessert, we need to step back into that Easter story.

Last Sunday we rejoiced in the joy of Easter. Perhaps you were here at Zion - or maybe you were visiting family members - wherever you are at, Easter is a joyful morning. Easter is a really big deal. The resurrection of Jesus is central to our identity as Christians, and when we recall the events each year, it reminds us of our identity as disciples of the risen Jesus!

For the original crew of disciples - their Easter morning was very different. According to the gospel of John, they didn’t know he was risen yet. So instead of being a joyful, wonderful time - it was still a very terrible time for Jesus’ followers.

Our gospel lesson tells us that they were all gathered together in a locked room, afraid of persecution. They were afraid of what life was going to be like now that their leader was dead. As far as they knew, Jesus had been dead for 3 days. They felt a total loss of identity. We can imagine that they were wondering what to do next. They had families and lives. They had spent 3 years following Jesus - and now, it was over. It must have been a frightening time of grief, confusion, and sadness.

Then - in the midst of all that grief, confusion, and sadness, Jesus appears. Suddenly. Right there. Right beside them. And the first words he says are: “Peace be with you.” To call the experience surprising and shocking is a huge understatement. It’s hard to imagine what the disciples were thinking! They would have been filled with so many emotions. IMMENSE joy at the fact that Jesus wasn’t dead. Immense confusion about what it all meant. Immense guilt that they didn’t do more to keep him alive.

The way Jesus communicates with the disciples is really special. He doesn’t review everything that has happened. He doesn’t make them feel guilty or bad. Instead, he calms their fears and reminds them that all of this has happened for a reason! He invites them into the bigger picture of it all!

He says: “As my father has sent me, even so I SEND you!” Then Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on to them. A week later, Thomas shows up. With such grace and compassion, Jesus is patient and loving - offering a word of peace once again.

When Jesus entered into that locked house for the first time on that very first Easter - he was entering a group of people who felt they had totally lost their identity. Before Jesus arrived, they no longer knew who they were. He gave them purpose, love, and meaning. And then - immediately - he sent them out into the world to forgive and share His love.

Jesus took that broken group of people and reminded them of the roots of their identity: Spreading peace and doing service in His name! Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit - in a concrete way, by breathing right on them. This way, they would KNOW and FEEL that they were never alone.

We all have experiences of lost identities and changing identities. When we’re young, our identity is child, or student, or sibling, or grandchild. Then suddenly, before we know it, our identities change. We have new identities as confirmation student, graduate, spouse, parent, employee, supervisor, or volunteer. Then sometimes our identities changes again, caregiver, widow, single parent, unemployed, retiree. We move or change jobs. We go through major life transitions. In our daily lives - there are aspects of our identity that change all the time. These shifts in identity happen in our family lives, in our places of work, and certainly within our congregation. These transitional times can be overwhelming and scary. We wonder: "Who am I? What is my purpose?"

The situation described in our gospel lesson is not so different from what happens in our lives. The disciples were alone and afraid because they felt like they didn’t know who they were anymore. They longed for a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives - and they didn’t know where that was going to come from. We long for purpose and meaning in our lives, too.

And for us - Jesus shows up in our midst, too! And he welcomes us with a word of peace and love. He sees beyond any of our past mistakes, hurts, or worries. And then Jesus sends us out into the world....the same way he sent the disciples. Jesus sends us out into the world with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The words “Sent” and “Send” are used 32 times in the Gospel of John. That’s quite a lot! Which shows us that this whole idea of being “sent” is important to Jesus. Jesus says that God sent him - and now he sends us. He sends us to love and serve in this name.

This is what happens on the other side of the resurrection! Jesus rose, and then he told his followers to head back out into the world. He didn’t want them to turn into on themselves...huddling in fear and isolation. He turned them outward. Jesus clearly lets those disciples know that they don’t exist for their own sake. Their purpose isn’t to stay hidden in a locked room...their purpose is to be sent into the world in Jesus’ name!

We have a permanent identity: Children of God and Disciples of the risen Jesus! Regardless of anything else, we always have that. And we can also follow Jesus’ command to be sent out into the world to serve in His name. Every act of kindness, every word of compassion...all day, every day - there are opportunities. We do it all because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent in Jesus’ name.

I invite you to pause and take a deep breathe in and out. Whenever you breathe in, I invite you to remember that we, too, can breathe in the Holy Spirit - the very same way the disciples did.

Today we rejoice in the full story of that first Easter! Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, he brought back a message of peace and an assignment to spread His love everywhere. May we feel the Holy Spirit’s leading presence with every breath we take.

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