I was scheduled to be preaching a sermon to my congregation right about now. Instead I'm hanging out with my sick wife and our little baby in a cramped hospital room overlooking the East End of Pittsburgh. See some of the posts below from earlier today and earlier in the week.
Here are some notes I took earlier in the week on the passage I was going to preach on today. Instead Tim Becker is preaching, who I'm sure will deliver a knock out sermon.
As the Father Sends the Son, So the Son Sends Us:
It seems there are two branches, among many others, within the church today. The first group are the Christians who thrive off of the power of the Holy Spirit. Many of us have experienced the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We’ve felt God’s Spirit and know the closeness of God. I believe God wants us to continue to seek the Holy Spirit and the experiences that the Spirit may bring. But, sometimes we can make our purpose in life to create experiences with the Holy Spirit. If we make an idol of our feelings we are missing the point. On the other hand Christians, and I put myself in this category, can feel a distinct call from God to bring transformation to people and creation through the ministry of Christ. We go out in mission and ministry to bare witness to the risen Christ and work for Christ’s sake. But, often times in the midst of our laboring for Christ we forget that Christ’s Holy Spirit is the one with whom we are laboring. We’re the activists in the church, at our worst, we forget to pray, forget that the Holy Spirit is at work, we go about our work busily but with much anxiety and self absorption.
Our scripture today gives us a deep trinitarian view of the Father Son and Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s role in experience of Christ and our being sent into the world for the sake of ministry.
John 20:19-23 (New International Version)
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Background, what’s happening here?
First, Jesus shows up to comfort, reassure and encourage.
From a place of deep knowledge of the risen Christ and peace in that relationship, we are sent. Read and explain vs. 19 and 20
As the Father Sends the Son… How does the Father send the Son? The Father sends the son from a place of intimate oneness and unity. God the father and God the Son are in perfect relationship, from that deep and personal relationship the father sends the Son into the physical world. It is from this deep personal relationship that Jesus sends his disciples into ministry and mission. Have you dwelt with Jesus? It is only when we patiently learn to be in Christ as Christ is in the father that we will be effectively sent to transform the world.
We’re not sent out away from God to do his work, we’re sent out with God to join him in his work. We work as the physical hands and feet of God, but we are not separate from God. Jesus breathes upon his disciples and gives them his power and presence through the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that we partake in as we move from oneness with Christ into world transforming ministry.
As Christians we need to understand our relationship with God in terms of this passage. Jesus gives us peace, allows us to experience himself in worship and devotion, but always gives us the Holy Spirit for the sake of going out in mission.
I’m interested to know if the disciples really went anywhere for the sake of mission. Of course we know Paul brought Christianity to many peoples and eventually to Rome. From there, we usually think Christianity made it’s way throughout the Roman world. This simplistic understanding of the spread of the gospel ignores the fact that the gospel spread not only toward Rome, but in all directions from Jerusalem. Legends and traditions from the early church give us some insight into how the gospel spread to these places.
Traditions and legends almost always hold some truth and some exaggerated storytelling. We can’t often know which is which. But, legends almost always are built on some aspects of truth. The truth that we’ll realize is that the apostles took seriously Jesus’ call to go into the world with the Holy Spirit.
You and I are invited to be draw into a mysterious union with Jesus Christ. A union which makes our relationship with Jesus as close as Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Just as the father and son are one, so we are one with Christ. Likewise, just as the Father sends the Son into the world to bring salvation, so the Son sends us into the world, but he gives us his spirit.
If you have never experienced this oneness with Jesus, if you’ve never surrendered your selfishness and your sinfulness to his transformative love, I invite you to do so tonight. The church’s ministry in the world is built upon people like you and me, regular people, who have been draw into relationship with Jesus. If you need to, take that step and ask Jesus to make you one with him. When we do this we are given peace in Christ and we are made ready for our ministry to the world in the Holy Spirit.