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From Brokenness to Wholeness

This is the sermon I'm preaching on Sunday, 5/31/20, Pentecost Sunday at St. Timothy Lutheran Church's Drive-In Service. The text was John 20:19-23. 
Looking back, is this how we thought we would commemorate Pentecost this year? It’s normally such a celebratory time. After all, it is the Christian church’s birthday! We have a party!

But not this year. Rather than a party, don’t we feel a bit like the captives in Babylon who cried out,  “…we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion…That’s where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: Sing us a happy Zion song!’  Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” (Psalm 135: 3-4). Have you felt sometimes like this time of not being able to gather inside our church building being in a wasteland?

A quiet Pentecost; not that of Acts 2, a riotous Pentecost party, given the time we are living in, given the deaths of so many in this year of Coronavirus, given the death of George Floyd and the resulting devastation in Minneapolis. The Pentecost of John’s gospel, the breath of Jesus giving the Holy Spirit is the kind of Pentecost we need today—the quiet peace-filled infusion of God’s powerful Spirit.

The setting is the evening of the resurrection and Jesus’ first public appearance. The disciples, huddled together behind locked doors were scared—and understandably so. Their mentor, friend and Lord was crucified by the authorities. Such power people love using guilt by association. The disciples feared for their lives and that of their families.

Was there a knock on the door? No. Jesus just appears, arriving despite locked doors.

Are some of us afraid or worried at this time--maybe not so much for ourselves, but for our friends and families. There is an unseeable disease lurking around ready to devastate us if we are not careful. We must don our masks, sanitize our homes and ourselves and maintain physical distance from those with whom we do not live. Some ignore and laugh at our precautions. As they throw caution to the wind, their number of positive cases rise. Frankly, I’d be more concerned about living in an area like that, than I am about the simple tasks of wearing a mask and providing distance.

To these frightened followers of Jesus behind closed doors comes Jesus! He uses the very common greeting of “Peace,” yet it is more than the equivalent of “Hello” or “Hi guys.” Showing them his wounds, so they know it’s really him, Jesus repeats his words of peace.

Jesus’ saying of “Peace be with you,” is a usual greeting both in Hebrew and in Arabic, but what Jesus does is far more than merely greet his fearful flock. He gives and breathes peace into them. One meaning is “peace to you” or “peace is yours.” More than a mere greeting, Jesus permeates his people with peace because of his very presence.

Jesus’ peace is for us too. It is easy to be distracted by the endless news cycle and its sadness. One of the recommendations is to limit the number of times a day we watch/read/listen to the news. If we fixate on it, it simply produces agitation and anxiety.

During this time at home, have we gotten off of the merry-go-round of busyness that has kept us from times of prayer and scripture reading? Have we taken advantage of this time to purposefully quiet ourselves to be available to God? Making ourselves accessible, we too can experience the great peace of Christ, because he is our peace. Even in the midst of destruction and devastation, he is our peace,

Once we have peace, then like the disciples, we can rejoice when we see the Lord (v. 20). Out of such peace and joy follow hope. Just like Jesus’ first followers, we are in a place to receive what God has to give.

God has a mission for the disciples to be witnesses of what Christ has done for them and wants to do for all. But these formerly frightened followers cannot do it in their own strength. Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit and now gives it to them by breathing on them. This is funny because “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are synonymous in scripture. They’ve had all the teaching they need. They know the facts. Now Jesus gently gives the disciples the power they need to accomplish their mission.

Where does that leave us? We weren’t at Pentecost. We weren’t with the disciples. Are we chopped liver? No! That same Holy Spirit comes to us, infusing us with God’s power in baptism. That same Spirit is with us as we open our lives to its leading. To do what? To tell our stories, our God-sightings. To love our neighbors near and far—in Zimbabwe and Zambia and Minnesota and Bemus Point. To be what God already calls us—beloved children. Amen.
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