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1 We Are Being Sent A Sermon on John 20:19-31 Dr. Stanley N.

Webster, Pastor Second Presbyterian Church Second Sunday of Easter March 30, 2008

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31)

Jesus is sent. You know where the disciples are coming from. Your heart and mind is like a house with many rooms. Some of them have been shut off for many years. Like these disciples who have witnessed a crucifixion, you have gone through

2 some traumatic experiences. You have seen the injustice, the bloodshed, the anguish. The first disciples are brothers and sisters. Like them, you withdraw to a place considered safe, far from the light of day. We do the same thing collectively in the life of the church. Events occur that hurt the body of Christ. Beloved members leave, and the church is no longer the same. Divorces tear at the fabric of families and friendship circles. Scandals arise. The body is traumatized and the congregation or Presbytery begins to understand the demoralization that the first disciples experienced with the cross. Dont be afraid. Jesus Christ, crucified, is risen from the dead. He is alive! And he is able to walk through walls. Forget the walls and the locks. Forget the fear that has taken over. See the risen Lord Jesus Christ appear and hear him say, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" Out of our experience of the cross, Easter happens. Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. (Psalm 97:11) The resurrection of the Son of God creates a reversal, not only in your heart, but in the life of the whole world. The doors may be locked, the lights may be snuffed out; the indestructible life of Jesus enters anyway. The vice grip of death is released. Life begins again. The risen Jesus delights in entering precisely this type of house and announcement that the immobility is over. Christ is risen and the saving movement of Jesus Christ continues. The idea of a future has been born again. As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" Being sent means you know where you are coming from and you know where you are going. Where Jesus is coming from. To renew your sense of being sent, what better place to start than the place from which Jesus comes? Again and again, Jesus refers to God as the Father who sent me. Jesus says of God, I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." (John 7:29, New Revised Standard) Jesus says, I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. (NRS John 6:38) Try to picture the communion of the Holy Trinity in heaven. Jesus speaks of the glorious unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in heaven: Its a place of great glory. Chances are you have experienced something very much like this communion as you have gathered with fellow disciples to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Do you sense the presence of a great light as we break the bread and share the cup? Are you filled with a great joy as you share the bread and wine with people you love? Where you are coming from. Jesus says, As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" In John 17:21 Jesus prays, Father, . . . the glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. As you are drawn into the faith of the risen Christ, you are joined to him and

3 receive his Spirit. Christ is with you and you are with him. You begin to participate in the power of the place of his origin. Jesus comes from the glorious communion of the Holy Trinity and draws you into his faith. You are now children of God. You now have the love of the Holy Trinity in continual supply. You now have the Holy Spirit without measure. Let me remind you that the love of God is a very powerful force! In situations of threat, remember the power of that love to assure life. I remember a lesson in a course I took in Emergency Medical Response. It was a chapter on breaking into homes to rescue people. The EMTs are instructed in how to get around locks and security systems that are designed for keeping burglars out. I understand the need to keep burglars out. But every attempt to barricade yourself in your home is another obstacle for a person who is trying to get in to help you! In the explosion of good rock music of the 1960s there was a song that expressed an approach we all try: Ill never fall in love again. Thats one response to a break up, or a divorce, or to a friend who turns out to be a false friend. Stop and think seriously about that wall. No more love in your life. At that point you become a lot less flexible. Where are you going to get the energy to meet the challenges that come your way? Look around you at the walls you have erected. Take a second look at those locks. Security systems are costly. And you dont really need them when the place you are coming from supplies you with power and love to deal with and move through all the threats! Remember where Jesus and you are coming from! Communities of faith are tempted to retreat behind closed doors, too. Worship counteracts the retreat. Instead of drawing into ourselves, we gather in the power of the Holy Spirit and celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ in the Word and Sacraments. In worship we continually remind each other where we are coming from. The life of the congregation is generated continually out of the communion of the Holy Trinity in the heavenly places. The church is born again every time we gather at the Lords table. As we encounter Jesus in the Sacraments we hear him say a liberating word: As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" Where Jesus is going. The gospel of John tells us where Jesus is coming from and where he is going: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (New Revised Standard, John 3:16-17) Look at him! He leaves the glorious communion of the Holy Trinity and comes to earth to bring that love into this dark world. The

4 incarnation is an act of love. Thats why we celebrate Christmas at the time of year when the days are shortest and the nights are long. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5, New Revised Standard) Where you are going. Jesus comes into your dark house. Jesus steps effortlessly through the walls and doors you have erected and sets you free with the same mission, As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" Jesus sends you into some dark corner of this world to bear the love of the Holy Trinity! The Presbytery of San Diego has published a mission statement. They say, In recent years, our Presbyterian Church (USA) has described the identity of presbyteries as governing bodies. This gives the impression that . . . rules, regulations, and policies are what is most important about our life together. . . . [This] does not describe who we are today or who we hope to become in the future. While we will continue to govern as needed, it is not the primary adjective that defines who we are. We live in a mission field and all of us are sent by God into it. God has a mission and Gods mission has a church. We want to be a sent people who are shaped by Gods mission, energized by Gods mission, and defined by Gods mission. . . . We long to make a difference in the world.1 You are being sent. That sounds a lot like what the church has always been, from the very first Easter evening. Disciples, fearful of the very real threats that surround them, find a closed room with an expensive security system. Jesus Christ comes in anyway and sets us free to go out and do his work in the world. Jesus Christ comes into a very dark place with light that overcomes. Resurrection happens. He pulls us into his triumphant love and energizes us with a mission: As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" You are no longer confined to this dark house. Drawn into the faith of the risen Lord Jesus, you are being sent! Now to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be honor and glory now and forever! Amen.