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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sermon: “The Peace of Christ:  The Calm in an Unsteady Life”  by Pastor Josh
Today, again, we look at how John interpreted and made sense of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. 
The disciples are gathered, frightened and afraid. They know Jesus is dead but now his body is missing! They’re afraid of the authorities in Jerusalem.  Maybe they removed his body. The disciples are held up, seized with fear, not knowing what to do next, are they next, all while they are grieving. Yes, Earlier In the in the day, Mary told them she had seen Jesus. But they seemed not to believe her. 
Until Jesus appears before them and says “Peace be With You.” This echoes John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” So by this appearance 
and Jesus saying Peace Be with You, the disciples are comforted. 
They then see Christ’s wounds where the nails perceived Jesus’ hands and where the soldier pierced his side. This was a sign that this really was Jesus. Once they saw this, they were filled with joy. This also echoes back to earlier in John, in chapter 16
When he spoke to the disciples during his last supper, as John tells, “Soon you won’t see me, and soon after that you will see me? I assure you that you will cry and lament, and the world will be happy. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” 
Jesus then breathes the Holy Spirit into the disciples. The Holy Spirit in other places in John where Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the Greek word paraclete. Paraclete is translated in several ways, each one as valid as the next, each one adding nuance. The Paraclete has been translated as Advocate, Companion, Helper, and Comforter. Each of these translations describes how the Holy Spirit functions. The Holy Spirit is a companion who helps and comforts us to spread and enact the good news which is revealing God’s presence in our lives and calms the lives of others. 
This comforting presence is carried through the Holy Spirit. The word in Greek for spirit also means wind. To breathe in is to feel the Holy Spirit at work within us. 
Breath is amazing. If we breathe really fast (breathe in and out fast), it can increase our blood flow, give us extra energy, and charge us. But that’s not all, as demonstrated during our children’s message, breathing slowly (breath slowly and deeply) calms and focuses our mind.. 
Prior to Jesus appearing before the disciples, they perhaps were experiencing an existential crisis, filled with the anxiety and purposelessness because the guy they had been following was dead. For the last three years, they had built a family of disciples and a community of followers, they had shared meals together, witnessed healings together, saw what life could be like.  They had dedicated the last three years to following Jesus, who they thought would improve their lives. Instead, they had to flee for their lives, keeping as far away as was comfortable from the cross. They fled to where they are gathered now. 
Jesus’ murder throws them into an existential crisis. What are we to do next? We need to hide from the religious and political authorities. We need to keep outsight of Rome’s soldiers. Do we go back to Galilee and continue our old lives? Do we stay? Do we try to restore the community of people who followed our friend, Jesus?  Do we continue Jesus’ ministry?
These questions ,I suspect, ceased once Jesus appeared before them. All of sudden their grief turns into joy and their fear turns into purpose.
When he gives them the peace of the Holy Spirit, he says, “Peace Be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” He’s sending them out to continue his work. He had told them they would do greater things than these. He says, in John 14: I assure you who believes in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the work thank I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”  
Verse 23 gives us pause. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Biblical theologian Karoline Lewis writes: for John sin is not a category of morality but a category of relationship, depicting a lack of relationship with God or unbelief in Jesus as the word made flesh.” In other words, sin here means failing to recognize the presence of God and failing to cultivate a relationship with the divine. Beyond that, we do not know what this exactly means. Even though in other gospels, the disciples are told to forgive sins, for nowhere else in John does it say the disciples are to forgive sins I think of this more as a warning? Be careful if you deny forgiveness. You are denying someone a chance to experience God now. So Jesus empowers the disciples and sends them with the the companion, helper, comforter, and also says before care. 
WE may be thinking, what about Thomas. He wasn’t there. Does this apply to him as well. I think this is a collective sending so it means that this also includes Thomas even though he is not there.  
But when he heard the news, he didn’t believe it. He had to be convinced. He had to have proof. If he didn’t have proof it did not mean anything. 
I wonder, perhaps if Thomas was actually trying to get out of doing what Jesus told his disciples they would need to do after he returned back. Jesus has been saying he will be killed but he will be brought back. Jesus said, you will reveal the presence of God. You will reveal what eternal life means. So if Thomas believes Jesus has returned, he, too, would have to continue Jesus’ ministry.
But Once he sees he believes. He now trusts in what Jesus had said.  
Finally, everything he heard Jesus say has come to fruition. His sorrow has now turned into joy, and his fear has turned into purpose. 
And now the disciples turn into the body of Christ with the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit bringing good news to those who need the calming presence of Christ. 
We too are to offer this good news, God is here. Breath in the Holy Spirit. Feel the loving presence of Christ. 
We Are going to sing, It is Well with My Soul, a song that have given many comfort. 
It has provided comfort since it was written. Horatio Spafford wrote the lyrics. Horatio lost his son. And then, in the Great Chicago Fire, his real estate holdings were wiped out. Then, he sent his wife and four daughters on a vacation to Europe. Due to unexpected business, he needed to stay back in Chicago but would follow behind them in a few days. The ship his family was on was struck by another ship. The ship sank, and a few days later his wife wired to him: “Saved alone.” He went to be with his wife. It story goes that where his daughters died, he wrote these lyrics. “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll whatever my lot though has taught me to say It is well with my soul, it is well with my soul. 
So let’s sing!

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