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Sending

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Sermon: Sending, John 20:19-31 Sunday, April 11, 2021 Christ is risen! I just love that idea. It's almost like we need to wake in the morning with a little sign right there, as we leave our bedroom, that says, "Christ is risen!" In order that we go out we have to say the password to move out into the world. This morning we are going to read a passage that is read every year the week after Easter. A passage the church wants us to attend to. So listen now to John 20:19-31. Please read. There is a lot in here. Our minds can't help but begin to ponder what we just heard. We think about what it must have been like to see Jesus with the wounds; can't help but wonder about that. Maybe we were wondering about how is it that he suddenly appeared even though the doors are locked. Or maybe we were wondering what it would be like to be those disciples who felt like the Lord was gone forever and there they are locked away for fear of their own survival. After all of our wonderings after we spend time thinking through the passage, we are ultimately going to come to a question. There is going to be a question that we are ultimately going to have to face in the end and that question is simply this, why was this recorded? Why was this written down? Why was this saved throughout the generations? Why? What is the purpose? What is there in this remembering that is passed on to us? Why, what's the purpose? I want to suggest to you that the purpose is found in one single line. There's a lot in here. There is a lot to work with but there is one single purpose. When Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Sent and sending. We understand what that is. We understand what it is to be sent. When dinner is about ready and we send one of the children to go and let the other children know that it's time for dinner, we are sending that one. And there are certain expectations of what is involved in that sending. That child that we send, we expect that child not to go and join the other siblings and start playing with them or engaging in whatever they are doing. No, we've given a message for that child to carry to the siblings. And that child knows they are not carrying a message of their own but they are carrying our message. They are carrying the message that it is time for dinner. And the children that receive that message, they know that the message is not from the messenger but that the message belongs to us. So if they give their other sibling grief or difficulty or trouble they know they don't have to answer to that child they have to answer to us. Jesus is sending us out because more than dinner being ready, God has prepared his forgiveness and his grace. And he is sending us out and saying, "Come. For all things are now ready." Throughout the ages the scriptures are full of God sending messengers to God's people. Sending messages out to the people that they might hear that God has a message of love and a message of reconciliation. Many times that message is housed in the prophets those who have been set aside. They are the messengers of God. They are sent out to tell God's people what God has to say. And often times it is not a pleasant message they carry. And even more often it seems, people don't listen. People don't want to hear the message. Sent and sending. God is sending a message out to God's people. Out to the people who will hear the message and Jesus has carried that message, as the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you. That's a big message. That seems rather overwhelming. Seems like a lot to carry. You know what? What if people don't want to listen? Let's break down a little bit what Jesus is saying. Let's dig a little deeper into it and let's consider what really is conveyed in, "As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you." There is the, "As the, even so. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you." As...even so. There is a parallel that Jesus is lifting out. As the father has sent his son into the world, what is that? What does that mean? It means that God has loved us, loved the people of the world so dearly; has love the people of this world so much even as we have run from God. Even as we have run to other things to fill ourselves. Even as we have turned away from God, God has never turned away from us. God loves us so much that God finally decided to send his only son. His son, to express that love. That the message is a conveyance of love. A love that is so deep and so rich and so full that it's in spite of everything we are. Jesus is saying, "As the Father has sent me," in that level of love, I now am sending you. I am sending you to love other people with that depth. Even as they are running away from us. Even as they are rejecting us. Even as they are treating us poorly. Even as they are showing in every way that they want nothing to do with us. Jesus says, I am sending you to love them. To love them. Now, that sounds great but... That sounds really nice on paper but that sounds difficult. Really hard! That sounds impossible! That sounds like something a preacher will say that doesn't live in the real world. Let's look a little more what Jesus says around that. Let's look at the wrapping first. Let's look at the way Jesus wraps this statement of, "As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you." The wrapping the packaging. The packaging is this, Jesus says to them not once but twice and three times, "Peace be with you." Peace be with you. Please understand. This is more than a greeting; a nice greeting of a different time. This is more than, "Hi, how are you." This is more than a high five or secret signal among the disciples. This is far more than a greeting. This is an understanding of what Jesus wants to bring into us. Just as the disciples were called to be sent, as the father has sent Jesus, we too are called to be sent. And we, too, are receiving the peace that Christ is sending. That peace is more than our concept of peace of keeping everything still and at ease and there are no problems. It's far more than that. Shalom is far more than everything is just tranquil. No. Shalom is an idea of everything being proper and in order and as it should be. There is hardly a breath that we take that we don't have that internal desire, that desire to discover and find everything as it should be. We have those rare moments, rare days or even hours where we share with someone that everything went well. It was just a perfect day. The temperature was right. Everything fell just into place. And why do we tell each other about such days? Because they never really happen, it seems. But Jesus is coming and saying peace be with you, Shalom be with you. He's saying I want you to have envisioned the world as it will be. The world as it will be; incased, involved, just swimming in the love of God. As the writer of Revelation puts it, a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more mourning and crying. No more pain. And God himself will wipe away our every tear. There's Shalom that Jesus is giving us and calling us to is to envision a world in which things are put right. He knows what he is calling us to. He knows the journey he took to the cross. And so he is saying to do this you need to have a vision of what will be. Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you. And then he does another thing that is very odd very strange. It kind of catches us and we kind of wonder what's that about and then we move on because it is just so out of our understanding that we kind of just pass over it. Like when you read a name of a foreign city you can hardly pronounce or something else, you just kind of move over it, skip beyond it. You heard it but chances are, you are like me, we just kind of past it because we don't really understand what that is all about. Jesus breaths on them. And the best I can say is I hope he wasn't eating limburger before that. What's that about? Breaths the Holy Spirit upon them. What's that all about? Remember we are worrying about what it is to be sent out as God sent Jesus out now sending us out. We are worried about what that looks like. To go out these doors and play out the practicality of what that looks like. And now Jesus breaths on us. Well, go back with me. Go back with me to the very beginning of scripture when God is busy doing the creation and calls out the light and separates the waters and such that now there is an expanse, a heaven. And then separates the waters further from the right and the left and land appears. And then brings forth vegetation, birds of the air and fish and creatures. And then human. And into that first man, looking in every way like a man, but missing one thing. Missing life. And how does God infuse that life? He breathes life into that man. He breaths his spirit into man. The word is ruah which is the same word we have for breath and wind as well as spirit. Jesus breathed on them. He breathed life into them. Fast forward with me to the prophet Ezekiel. This prophet who is away in exile. He and everyone else from Jerusalem has witnessed the vile, overtaking of Babylon. Babylon has overthrown and destroyed the temple. Everything is has been thrown down and now the people are in exile in Babylon. And everything they knew is now gone! The city of Jerusalem, which God had protected so many times before. The temple in which God had kept sanctified had now all be destroyed. And God speaks to the prophet Ezekiel. He speaks of vision in which is not hard to understand. He gives Ezekiel a vision of this valley of this valley that is dry and barren and just full of dry bones. Bones. Bones just laying around everywhere. It's where we get our song (singing) the bones connected to the thigh bone. This vision of dry bones. And God asks the prophet Ezekiel, can these bones live? Ezekiel is smart. He has listened to God enough to know how to answer God. And he says, "Only you know, O God." He is looking at a valley of dry ones. There's no life here. It is dead. It is gone. The flesh, the sinews, and the tendons they are all gone. It's only bones and they are not even connected! Everything has been destroyed. The walls have been broken down. The temple has been destroyed and now they have been carried hundreds of miles away. It's over! And God says, can these bones live? And Ezekiel says, "Only you know, O God." God says to Ezekiel to prophase. To testify. To prophesizes to those bones. Do you know how God said it? God says, "Prophase to the breath." Prophase to the breath to the bones. God says, speak in the breath of life to the bones. You know what happens. The bones start coming together, start to form and start to be. It is a reminder that God will restore his people. Will bring them back to Jerusalem. Will restore the temple. And that there is a greater restoration he has in mind. A restoration that you and I know live in. The restoration of Jesus Christ because he is risen! You better feel that in your heart. He is risen indeed. Because God has testified to the breath. When Christ came into that room with the disciples who were locked away in fear because they worried that they were the next ones to find that way to a cross. Jesus comes in and says, "Peace be with you." I want you to envision a future of what God is bringing because God is bringing. God has delivered before. And God will deliver again and I am a living example of that deliverance. "Peace be with you." And know I breathe on you the Spirit of God. Life. I am breathing into you life. You thought you were alive? You are now alive. If you walk in Christ, you are no longer walking as dead people for you are walking in the living blood of Jesus Christ. You are alive! And know now we face the great challenge of going out those doors. You see, John didn't just leave this recording for us there. He recognized that we still have a reality to face. To go out now and be sent in that same love. To speak the love of God to other people. It's an enormous risk. It is a huge challenge and it means multiple rejections. The disciples themselves, as excited as they were to see Jesus and praise God and be excited, they still had to go out those doors. So they started simply. They started with someone they knew. Just like you and I we might take our risks with friends or family or people who might give us a hearing. They started with Thomas. And Thomas, he doesn't disappoint. He gave them exactly what they expected. He rejected the idea that Christ has risen. This one who followed and had been an intimate inner circle, rejected the idea that Christ was alive. He wasn't there for Christ appearance and there is no way that someone who was dead is now alive. He went on to emphasize. You can just imagine the squabbling that developed. Here they are full of joy trying to tell him and the more and more he is agitated until he finally says, "Look! Until I put my finger into the marks of the nails and my hand into his side," talk about gross. He is trying to emphasize, you all are nuts! He is speaking to the physicality of reality. The truth of the matter is you and I will envision people who will reject the reality of what we have to say because of the reality of what they live. And that is understandable. Why should we get upset with people who will give us exactly what we expect? So I'm telling you, we don't have to sit in fear. We don't still have to hide behind locked doors. We can prepare ourselves for the mission we have been given because we have been sent with the peace of God in mind and with the spirit of God in us. So let's do our homework. Look, I've got some books here. Lee Strobel, an atheist journalist, when his wife converted to Christianity wanted to win her back because he thought she had joined a cult. So he did more and more research. He did all of his journalistic skills and investigated as much as he could and then he finally came to the horrible realization, "Oh no, it's true." He became a follower of Jesus Christ. Copies of this book are out in the narthex. Here is this guy, J. Warner Wallace. Another atheist detective. He saw the underside of humanity each and every day. He saw how good we all are at lying all the time. He followed just the facts. When he took his skills as an investigator, a detective and applied them to Christianity again he came to believe. God's Crime Scene, Cold Case for Christianity. These are easy reads and they are fun. They are good to have in the back of your mind when you are dealing with your friend or neighbor or your family member who just doesn't want to have any of it. You don't have to close the sale. That's not our job. But our job is to convey. To recognize and be Thomas' along the way and understand the doubters. "Yeah I can see why you would want to do that. That makes sense." As gross as it is. Think about this. "This guy says this. What do you think of that?" Or maybe Timothy Teller, your modern day C.S. Lewis who once wrote, "Mere Christianity." An evangelical conservative minister who worked in New York City and particularly ministered to progressive liberal atheists. There is a nice combination. Or the book, "The Reason for God." These are not high intellectual reads. They are down to earth and practical. People have questions and real doubts. And they are going to run from the idea. Why should we be surprised? If we are worried about rejection, forgive me but I'm going to say the obvious, dah! So was Christ! He went to the cross and he is saying, "As the Father sent me, even so, I'm sending you." That's who we are. That's who are now called to be. We are not without equipment. God Himself has breathed life into us through the spirit. But there is more. Thomas is there eight days later which is the Jewish way of saying, what we would think, of seven days later. On the eighth day, they count the day, the present day and go forward. So there again, on the following Sunday there they are still behind locked doors; none of us take stuff very easily. This time they have Thomas with them, whether they bond him and tied him to a chair, I don't know. But he is there and Jesus appears again. And he says to them; what does he say to them? The first thing he says to them is, "Peace be with you." That's right. Then he turns to Thomas. (I can see the other disciples, let's watch what happens here.) And he says to Thomas, put your finger here, (middle of hand). Put your hand here (on the side). Do you know what I hear in that? I hear a willingness of Jesus, not to beat up the guy who doubted but to recognize that you are struggling, that you are hurting, that you don't get it. You know what? We make a huge mistake as Christians when we hide ourselves and hide all our problems and all our struggles. When we polish ourselves up and make ourselves look good before everyone else, they need to know that we still have wounds and hurts and pains and struggles as well. We are no better than the person we are talking to but what we are leaning on is the grace that we have through Jesus Christ. Otherwise there is no difference. Because we live in that forgiveness and grace we are trying. Jesus was willing to reveal his wound. Are you willing to reveal your wounds to those who are struggling? Because in that is the pathway to belief. Thomas says, "My Lord and my God." We don't know whether he really put his finger in the hand or hand in the side. It doesn't tell us because that's not what matters. Jesus says one more thing. He says, "Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are all those who have not seen and yet come to believe." That's us. Blessed is everyone who has come to believe without having the proof of Jesus Christ standing right there. That's the reality. Because in the end there is always a step of faith. That's why I have every confidence in saying to you, you are not the one who can close the sale. So if you hear that I'm trying to recruit a bunch of sales people, make you sales people, in the end the image doesn't work because you CANNOT close the sale. It is not in your ability because in the end each and every one of us and every person out there eventually has to make a leap of faith. Has to make a conscience decision to trust that what we have learned is true. Abraham, way back, father Abraham, father of the faith, had to believe that God would give him a descendant even in his old age. He had to trust. He had to believe. Ezekiel when looking at those dry bones who passes off the question for a moment says, you know O God. In the mean while what am I supposed to do with these dry bones? In the end when God says prophase to the breath, to these bones, I can just see him, just like you and I, OOOKaay. Or when the instructions were given to Joshua who is now taken over for Moses. Moses was this great leader and they followed him but they gave him trouble from time to time but they followed him. They knew that in the end, don't mess with Moses. But when Moses dies and now it's passed on to Joshua and Joshua is now in charge it's time to test the new leader. What does Joshua get as his first test? Just go cross the Jordan and when you step in the Jordan the waters will roll back. They had to take the Ark of the Covenant, the priest with the poles on their shoulders and they had to go across that Jordan and the way it was going to work was that once they put their foot in the Jordan the waters would roll back. Do you know what that requires? That requires a step of faith. That requires trusting that by stepping out God will respond. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. God has set it up as such that we have to take the first step. When we work with others, try to help others to understand, we can't ultimately make it all clean and perfect in the end we still have to leave that person and the spirit of God to make that step. But because we don't close the deal we can't lose track of what is true. Jesus put a commission in our hearts, as the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you. Every year, year after year, the church throughout the generations, throughout the centuries has placed this reading the Sunday after Easter to remind us, as we celebrate the resurrection, it's now time to get to work. God has sent us. Let's go. Let's pray.
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