Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed.
yadda yadda yadda
So while for most of world Easter may be well in the past,
for us here in the church,
we’re still in the thick of it.
According to our calendar we have five more weeks of it.
Thats how important the men and women who helped unpack and order our faith and spirituality think this message of resurrection is,
this message of God reclaiming this world as His own,
this affirmation that Jesus is the way to be truly human,
this truth that love is more powerful than hate, fear, and division.
And so the plan for us during these five weeks is to explore these things,
asking what it says about how this world works,
and also how it shapes us,
both as individuals,
but also as the church,
as this community of faith we’re all a part of.
So as we enter into this story we heard from John’s Gospel,
we’re going back in time to the evening of Easter Sunday;
one of the disciples,
we may remember,
has discovered the empty tomb and encountered the Risen Christ,
and she’s run off to go and tell the other disciples that the worst thing hasn’t happened,
but that love has overcome fear and hate,
that God is still moving in the world,
and at the end of the day we find the disciples all gathered together in this locked room.
Locked because of their fear that the police would find them and kill them too,
on a deeper, more soulful, and more honest level,
because of their fear that Mary’s story is true;
fear of what it Jesus being alive means for them,
that they’d have to go and be this ‘church’ Jesus always talked about,
this community that would continue his work and bring about a world where everyone has enough and everyone has a place.
And so they are all up there,
caught in that tension of disbelief and belief,
of self preservation and faithful action,
all debating, thinking, and wondering what it means to be Christ’s Church, his Body in the world:
“Well, maybe,” one of them says, “being the church means staying up here and just praying for God to intercede.”
“What if” asks another, “it’s just about feeding the naked and clothing the poor?”
“Or maybe it’s about having really nice buildings to gather in” says another.
“Yah,” adds someone else, “it can be a place we put furniture we don’t want in our houses anymore.”
“And sometimes we can sit around and eat little sandwiches with crusts cut off.”
“Yah, I invented it. Its like bread but with stuff in-between it. It’ll be a hit.”
And just as they are up there plotting and planning away,
becoming more anxious and scared as they talked about what it means to be the Church,
who shows up in the midst of it?
And it’s not a ghost,
it’s not a spirit – he’s breathing, he shows them fresh wounds;
but it’s not exactly a body either – he’s different, he just appeared out of nowhere;
it’s this embodied spiritual presence, this mystery, we call the Risen Christ,
and he just appears in their midst,
and he says to them all:
“Peace be with you.”
And we don’t really know how the disciples reacted to this,
I dont know how we’d react to this,
but we’re told the disciples were “exuberant,”
they became ‘filled with energy,’
and they sat around Jesus,
ready to hear from him,
ready to know what’s next,
ready for him to say what it means to be the church.
And he says again: “Peace be with you.”
And then he breathes on them,
maybe sighing out,
maybe blowing upon them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit,
that Friend I told you about,
that Spirit of Life and Peace who will travel with you,
who will be my presence among you.
Breathe her in and breathe with God.
go and erase sin.
If you don’t, who else is going to do it?”
And with that, it seems, he leaves as quickly as he appeared.
It’s a strange story, isn’t it?
And not just because we’re asked to believe that Jesus is risen,
but the way that John tells the story just seems … lacking.
You’d think that the return of the Risen Christ would be a bit more ceremonial,
a bit more pomp and circumstance,
a bit more razzle dazzle.
But then again, it is Jesus …
it’s God who came into our world as a baby.
It is the guy who chose love over power,
who chose grace over force,
who chose to eat in the back alleys and slums instead of the high end restaurants and palaces;
subtle, backwards, and upside down is his shtick.
And it’s here in this strange, almost unfinishedm resurrection story that we get the answer to the disciples’ question:
what does it mean to be the church?
What does it mean to be people of resurrection,
What do we do now that Easter Sunday is finished?
Well, according to this, church is about more than crustless sandwiches:
It’s about being co-spirators with God,
people who literally breathe with God,
who are animated by that Spirit we call Holy,
and go to continue that flow of Christ’s grace into the world.
That is what Jesus was about, wasn’t it?
It was God,
seeing that sin had disrupted our lives and world,
getting in-between us and our neighbours and us and God,
causing us to forget what it means to be human and what this world was supposed to be like,
came down not full of judgement and wrath and anger,
but full of grace and love and peace,
and emptied out what was inside Him into the world,
beginning this flow of grace,
stitching the world back together,
mending our relationships and our boundaries,
reminding us what it means to be human and a part of this world,
taking the sin we had emptied out into the world and erasing it with love.
Jesus was all about that flow of grace,
he is that flow of grace,
grace which erases sin and lets us truly live.
And while yes, the church is about sandwiches,
and yes the church often needs a building to gather in,
and yes it’s absolutely about prayer and justice,
it’s so much bigger than that:
Church is about continuing that flow of grace into the world;
it’s people who have been filled up with the Spirit of Life who empty themselves out for the sake of the world.
It’s people who know that holding on to sin or putting out someone else’s doesn’t bring life, it doesn’t lead anywhere good and beautiful.
The only way there is through grace, through letting it go, through erasing it with love.
As we head out from Easter,
may we know Christ is risen,
may we know we have no reason to fear,
and may we breathe God in …
Go ahead … do it … take a sec to simple breathe in that Spirit of Life.
Breathe it in,
breathe in peace, strength, courage and love,
and may we go out and empty it out on this world …