The theme for the Lenten Season in my congregation this year was “Wilderness Discipleship.” Little did we know that we would experience “wilderness” first hand ten short days after Ash Wednesday as we began the #QuarantineLife.
It was, as someone said, the “Lentiest Lent I ever Lented.”
It is a good thing that EASTER is a season and not just a one day affair. I am going to need every minute of it to consider what New Thing God is doing in my life. We are going to need every minute of it to discern what new things are being birthed in us. We may not realize it, but God is always at work bringing forth new life, even in the midst of darkness and despair.
Peace Be With You
I noticed a new thing when I was considering today’s text.
Jesus appeared to his disciples, to his community of beloved friends, on the day after his resurrection. They were hiding in a locked room. I am sure they were grief-stricken. I am sure they feared for their lives because they were associated with Jesus. I bet they even felt guilt and shame for abandoning Jesus in his hour of need. Whatever they felt, it was probably a heavy load.
And yet, in the midst of that, Jesus enters the room, and his first word was “Peace.”
He didn’t condemn them or judge them. There was no lesson, or sermon or parable. Just peace.
The second word Jesus speaks to them centers on restoration. He reaffirms their vocation as his disciples. He heals their fragmented and fearful community by reminding them that they are included in the work of transformation. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
They are still included and called to contribute to God’s mission because their worth has nothing to do with their abilities, shortcomings or even faithfulness. The truth is, they sort of missed the mark. The grace he grants, the new life he gives, doesn’t come once they are perfect, but instead at the height of their failure.
Might that be the same for us?
Could it be that Jesus actually works out new life in us, not after we get things right, but in the process of receiving grace? And that our willingness to receive this kind of grace from God is what enables us to also proclaim blessing to others? Is this the formula for discipleship, and even the church, a community of beloved imperfects shaped and sent by the affirmation of God?
Jesus’ next words, and breaths, seem to confirm it. He exhales on them and invites them to “receive the Holy Spirit.” What’s interesting is that he doesn’t tell them to go out and start preaching. Or start healing. Or start performing miracles. Rather, Jesus’ charge to them is to forgive. Just as he empowered the community to participate in the unbinding of Lazarus, Jesus is empowering the community again to share in the power of releasing hIs forgiveness.
In this passage, Jesus enters into the trauma, fear and grief of his community and speaks new life. I’d like to believe that God is also with us; in all of the uncertainty, fear and anxiety brought on by this global pandemic. AND if we are paying attention, God will be creating new life within us as well. That’s Easter.
May God form us into a new community that blesses others and speaks peace.
May God form us into a new community that restores and reaffirms vocation and inclusion in God’s work and mission.
May God form us into a new community that participates in proclaiming forgiveness that frees and liberates.