Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Send and Receive

Send and Receive from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

I Corinthians 12:1-13
1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uniformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each it given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another the prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

John 20:19-23
When 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.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

This Sunday, our scripture relocates us to the day of resurrection, when the disciples have not yet become the Church, but are frightened students who locked themselves away in fear.

If ever there was a gathering with which we could sympathize, it's these early disciples. They are afraid of persecution. They're afraid of joining their teacher in his suffering. They are afraid that the culture that surrounds them is looking to destroy them. They're afraid of what they've lost, and that they've given themselves over to a lost cause.

There are bunches of reasons we might choose to be afraid too. We might be afraid that someone will hurt us for doing the right thing, as happened in Portland a week or so ago. We might be afraid that terrorism will attack us, like what happened in London so recently. Or we might just be afraid that we won’t be listened to, or that we’ll embarrass ourselves. I think that last one is the most common reason we lock ourselves away in fear.

We are with the disciples, closed away from the world in our Sanctuary, our “safe space.”

Into that world of fear, into a locked room full of distraught disciples who cannot even believe the Good News, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you,’” Most scholars agree that the gospel writer is invoking the Old Testament greeting “Shalom.” It’s an older greeting sir, but it checks out. ”It is no longer a conventional greeting by the time the Gospel is written but one laden with community significance.” Imagine if Jesus appeared in the middle of our congregation and spoke up saying “The LORD be with you.” His somewhat outdated greeting would immediately identify him as the one who we meet around this table. Much more so that if he announced himself with a more colloquial “Mornin’ y’all!”

Our locked doors cannot keep our joy out. Jesus stands among us, and announces his presence in uncountable ways to all of us, if we are watching and listing, we know he is present with, and working through, his Church.

There are a lot of reasons to lock our doors these days. There's really only one reason to open them again. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

Jesus knew the suffering that was ahead of him when he was sent to Jerusalem. He also knows the world into which he is sending us. "The disciples are to live not according to fear but by Jesus's gift of peace.” Jesus knows our fear, and he sends us anyway, because there is more fear out in the world and we have been given good news to share. We have news of resurrection that can end our fear or the darkness.

The church cannot hide behind locked doors. We cannot be ruled by our fear, that’s not who we are anymore. “As the Father sent [Christ], so [Christ] sends us.” That’s the only reason to open our doors, but I cannot imagine why we would need another one.

The Church, born from those frightened disciples, is a conduit of grace. We remain connected to Christ, the source of that grace, and pour it out to the world around us.

But we dare not attempt that task alone. It’s too big for the poor sinners that make up Christ’s Church. The work we do, the work God does through us, is done by the power of the Holy Spirit. In a world full of fear, in a locked room of distraught disciples Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” That Holy Spirit breathes through us even now.

The Holy Spirit is moving within this congregation. Anytime we confess “Jesus is Lord,” that is the Holy Spirit at work in us. When we offer our gifts for the common good, the Holy Spirit is at work through us. Time would fail if I were to tell all of the varieties of services and activities that the Spirit is activating within this family of faith. Mission, Outreach, Finances, Stewardship, Christian Education, Fellowship, Member Care, Worship, Property, Scholarships, Leadership, Baby Showers, Weddings Showers, knitting, praying, loving, building, reaching, connecting, loving…

We do receive the Holy Spirit, which is at work in us and through us, spreading forgiveness, love, and peace to all those to whom we have been sent.

Most clearly, when we gather around this table, we are gathered by the power of the Holy Spirit, and elevated to share a meal with God our Father.

We don’t gather around an altar in the Presbyterian tradition, because we are not here to offer a sacrifice. God already made the sacrifice by sending his Son to the cross. We gather around a table to receive the assurance of the Holy Spirit, and to be awakened to the presence of Christ in our midst.

And then we are sent, to share the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the good news of Jesus Christ, glory of God the Father.

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