Reflection for Sunday – April 23, 2017

Readings: Acts 2:42-47, 1Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Preacher: Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler

It had been a terrible weekend. Their friend, whom they loved dearly, had been snatched from their midst, tortured and executed. Without him, they were lost. Not only that. They were full of anxieties. Afraid they might be next. So now, on Sunday night, they were huddled together, behind locked doors, paralyzed with fear.

Oh, they had heard rumors. Two of them had even seen the empty tomb. And some women reported that Jesus was alive. But, well, you know how excitable women can be. Why, their testimony isn’t even accepted in courts! The reality was that Jesus had died. That they knew.

And then—suddenly—Jesus bursts into their midst. Saying “Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He’s alive! It really is him! He’s alive!

Peace—inner peace—is Jesus’ first gift to his disciples. Infused with that peace, this motley group of ordinary men and women will soon change the world. Fear melts away. They are filled with joy. “We have seen the Lord!” The experience of Jesus in their midst changed them. Changed them, utterly.

“Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He hands over to his disciples—and that includes us—the work God sent him to do. To bring love, healing and forgiveness into the world.

Perhaps our world feels a long way from the peace Jesus brings. In the face of our daily news feed—Racism. Sexism. Zenophobia. Poverty. Hunger. War—Jesus’ invitation to bringing about God’s kingdom might seem like “Mission Impossible.”

But what better time than the Easter season to proclaim what God is capable of bringing into being? By his great mercy, Peter tells us in our second reading, God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus.

Do we sometimes doubt that the Spirit of Christ is just as present now as for those first disciples? Just as powerful? The same Spirit was poured out on us in baptism. Motley crew that we are, we can trust that the power of the Spirit will help us, too, to change the world.

Easter does make a difference. But Easter came at a price. It is only “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” that we have been made part of this new creation. And it is only by embracing a type of death with Christ that we rise with him into new life.

What sacrifices are we willing to make? Where is God calling us to reach out? In whose wounds are we asked to touch the Lord? What difficult person is waiting to experience God’s love and compassion through us? What gesture or word of healing and forgiveness is God sending with each of us for someone today?

In John’s gospel, belief and action are inseparable. Where the Spirit of God is alive, the community lives by a different set of values. It is the place where the power of the Risen Christ is at work. Humanity is empowered to live as Jesus did. Easter has made the difference.

In the long run, the most convincing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is not the empty tomb, but a community whose life is so different that there can be no other explanation than that God has somehow burst into history and lives in their midst. The audacious claims of a resurrection faith demand such boldness from us in the present.

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
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