Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Bethany Bullet - April 9, 2013

Did you ever get called into the principal’s office when you were in school?  I did, once, and man was I scared.  I just knew I was in trouble, I had been found out, some secret had been revealed or some indiscretion was uncovered.  My classmates made fun of me, and taunts of “Ooooo, you’re in trouble!” echoed in my ear. 

If you have ever experienced this you, like me, probably have butterflies in your stomach right now, the emotions of that experience are bubbling to the surface. Perhaps you are breaking a sweat or your hands are clamming up.  This is not a fun experience.  This conversation was not going to be fun.

Often times, difficult conversations are necessary and rarely do any of the parties involved enjoy the exchange. There is fear and trepidation and a longing that it would all be over.

As I walked into Mr. Beck’s dark office I was shaking in my boots, fearful of what was to come and perhaps more afraid of the conversation I would have to have with my father that evening.  As the door shut and Mr. Beck looked over his glasses at me he said, “Congratulations, your design was picked to be the cover of the Christmas program.”

I know I let out an audible sigh of relief and then a warm feeling took over my body and I felt at peace.  I was not in trouble after all, I was being commended for my actions and my artwork would be showcased to the school. From fear to joy, which is what our conversation today, is about; as we continue in our parish theme, “An Invitation to a Holy Conversation.”
It was the evening of that first Easter and the disciples were filled with fear. They locked themselves in a dark room and did not want to engage in the conversation with anyone from the outside.  They were shaking in their boots.

I’m sure some were ashamed, for many had run away when the Messiah was arrested.  I bet Peter’s stomach was tied in knots because of his denial.  The disciples were grieving, feeling unlovable, guilty and unforgiveable.  Suddenly, Jesus was standing among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Peace?  What do you mean peace? I could almost hear the disciples say.  Our text tells us that Jesus, “showed them his hands and side” (John 20:20a) proving to them that he was the one crucified just days earlier and he was alive!

“Peace be with you!”  The phrase was common but in this moment the sense was now peculiar.  This was not just the customary greeting of “Shalom.”

In the midst of their sin, their guilt, their fear, Jesus begins a conversation with them by bringing peace. This was not just a wish or good tidings to the future but a proclamation of certainty.  Jesus actually brings peace through his presence in that room standing as physical proof that he has won victory over sin and death, and he desire to have a conversation based on peace. 

Peace is a hard thing to come by, for rebellion, distrust, denial, rejection, fear and countless other negative events have created a wedge between a holy God and sinful humanity from the Garden of Eden.  Humanity declared war on God generations ago but in this moment God in the person of the resurrected Jesus Christ proclaims peace and brings forgiveness to those who cower in fear even those who feel that they cannot be forgiven. 

All the things that plague us trace back to a disbelief that God loves us and is able to forgive us.  We always think that we are the one exception. Oh, that forgiveness stuff may work for someone else, but my past is filled with things that are unforgiveable. My past is so riddled with denial or defiance that there is no way God can forgive me. We don’t even want to have the conversation, because we know where it is headed.  We will stand before the judge of all, fearing that your secret has been revealed or your indiscretions have been uncovered. 

If you are not convinced that Jesus died for you, that Jesus doesn’t love you, that He doesn’t want to have a conversation with you about forgiveness and you have locked yourself up and separated yourself from the world by emotional distance or ran from your feelings with an addiction to work or a chemical substance than all you are going to hear is God’s condemning voice pounding against your eardrums. 

But PEACE has entered this room today, He comes into the dark places where we hide and are afraid and we are confronted with the love of Jesus, as He bursts into this room, as we encounter the Peace that passes all understanding standing in our midst.

Jesus entered that room to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves you, that He wants to have a conversation with you, that He died for you, that you can be forgiven, and in that moment the conversation changes. 

Jesus says, “I love you, I forgive you, and I want the best for you.”  This changes everything; from fear to joy in the blink of an eye.

This is how you know forgiveness. This is how you know love.  Jesus says, “Peace be with you! Look at my hands, see my side. There is nothing you have done that will make me love you any less.  I forgive you and I want to have an ongoing conversation with you now and into eternity.”

Earlier in John’s Gospel he records these words of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

If you feel that forgiveness is not yours or that you are unworthy of God’s love it does not mean that you need to try harder or do better or lift yourself up by your bootstraps and be all you can be. NO!

It’s time to look back at the cross, to see the open tomb.  “Greater love has not one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

No, you don’t need to try harder, you need to hear that Jesus loves you all the time and that struggle with sin was squashed on the cross and its demise was complete in the cry, “It Is Finished!”

How do you do that? Look to the cross, look to the empty tomb, look to Jesus, and hold on by faith to what has been given to you.

That night Jesus entered the room to comfort his followers, to restore their relationship, to show that he was alive but he doesn’t stop there.  After Jesus comforts, he commissions them and release them to have holy conversations with others.

It was the breath of God that first gave life to Adam and now Jesus breaths on his disciples and brings them from death to life.  Jesus begins the conversation by giving up his breath on the cross so that he could breathe on you a message of forgiveness and give the Holy Spirit

Forgiveness enables the conversation but it is also the content of the conversation. After the day of Pentecost, the content of the apostles’ message was one of forgiveness. 

Jesus sent His disciples out to share the message of Peace and forgiveness to the world and He does the same to you today.  We are called into conversation and to offer to others, what has been given to us…forgiveness and peace. 

Jesus enters into this room today and in the midst of our sin, He comforts us with His peace and He commissions us with His Spirit. 

The key to the conversation is forgiveness.  May this invitation to a holy conversation not grip you with fear but foster joy in your life now and always.  “And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Amen
-Pastor Seth Moorman


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