Sending Spirit: The enlivening gift of Christ. 4.23.2022. Easter 2. Jn 20:21. Rev. Rodriguez.
“Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God! (Jn 20:28)”
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! We live and move and have our being in this life-giving acclamation, acknowledging the victory of the resurrection. For the last two years, I have been blessed to speak to you, on the second Sunday of Easter, about life in and from this Alleluia. I first understood Alleluia from Thomas’ perspective; Jesus personally inviting him and us to the way of faith. Last year, I considered how we are like the disciples living in the middle way; between trauma and hope. How forgiveness long retained is not forgiveness denied. Today, I want to elaborate on the origin of forgiveness and peace, the gift we can not see but sing with, feel here, and which unites us; the Holy Spirit.
Before his betrayal, Jesus assured his disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away….I will send him/her to you (Jn 16:7).” Jesus had to die so that, “another Advocate…[who would be] with them forever (Jn 14:16).” The Holy Spirit. Comforter. Judge. Truth. Teacher. Jesus breathed this everlasting gift upon them as he sent them out. Now the disciples had the gift of God that would, “take what is [Jesus’] and declare it to them (Jn 16:15).” Can you hear what the Spirit is saying about Jesus? Here today is the living one whispering in our ears, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you…. you will see me; because I live, you also will live (Jn 14:18b, 19b).” Tomorrow, he shall bespeak to us the same tender peace that comes from knowing that though we die, “it is finished. Jesus bowed his head and gave us his spirit (Jn 19:30).” How can we see and can we behold the risen Christ, with Philip and Thomas? Is this axiom true for us as it was when it finally dawned on the author of Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb 13:8).” Are we breathing in the Spirit who declares to us this Christ or zeitgeist? Today’s sermon, “Sending Spirit: The enlivening gift of Christ’s peace,” depicts the Spirit as both comfort and lens to help us determine where to find Christ, rather than this zeitgeist. To this end, I want to draw your attention to John, chapter twenty, starting in verse twenty-one when Jesus says, “peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I send you.”
The Spirit of God is always on the move; always causing life, freedom and restoration. Consider the very name of the Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures: ruah. Breath. Wind. Anointing from above. At creation, we see how the the spirit swept over the face of the waters (Gen 1:2) and bore witness to life; light from nothingness. Or how about the utter beauty of freedom which the Spirit caused Isaiah (61:1b-2) to declare about his mission, “to bring good news to the poor, to bind the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and set the prisoners free; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Or listen to how God commanded Ezekiel (37:9) to call forth the Spirit to restore the exiles to their calling: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.” Paul understood this same Spirit declared Jesus to be the Son of God at his resurrection (Rom 1:7). This breath of God, whom we call, the Lord, The Giver of Life, Jesus imparted to his disciples on Easter evening to do precisely what he needed this gift to do: “to remind them of all that the said to them (Jn 14:26).” He knew that on account of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, the disciples, “would weep and mourn…you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy (Jn 16:20).” We see this deep wound manifested as fear in our gospel text this morning. On Easter evening, after Mary had announced to the disciples clearly, I have seen
the Lord, they huddled together behind closed doors. They had closed themselves off to the breath of life by abiding in their soul-wounds. But let’s be compassionate on them. They had experienced a moral injury. Moral injury may be defined as “Moral injury is the distressing psychological, behavioral, social, and sometimes spiritual aftermath of exposure to such events, [that go against one’s moral constitution and one fails to do something about it]( Moral Injury – PTSD: National Center for PTSD (va.gov)).”
Let’s see how the disciples were morally injured. They had seen one of their own company of friends betray Jesus. Peter had denied them. Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the Mother of God had seen their savior die a shameful death on the cross. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea had been powerless to change the circumstance of Jesus’ death. What else would one do when faced with such horror and you can not change its outcome? Many of us have been morally injured. Consider the news cycle or the countless violent images plastered over social media about events in Ukraine, Mexico, the Central African Republic. In essence as disciples, we are seeing the agony and death of our Lord before our very eyes. Let us not forget that crucifixion was intended as a way of maximizing pain, to exert a kind of control mixed in with despair. We could fall into despair. Kierkegaard put despair best, “despair is precisely self-consuming, but it is impotent self-consumption which is not able to do what it wills.” If we would live into such despair, we live as if Christ Jesus had died in vain. Death has consumed the Lord of Life. What then ought we to get from this world? To breath in its zeitgeist?
It is precisely here that we see how the Spirit is both Lens and Comfort to us. Lens to see where our Lord Christ is among us today and Comfort to us in our sins an injuries. He appears precisely in the closed doors of our lives. On the evening after Mary announced to the disciples that she had seen the Lord. Jesus stood among the morally injured and fearing disciples to declare to them, not once, or twice but thrice, “Peace, be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I sent you (Jn 20:21).” As he imparts this peace, he breathes on his disciples the ruah; the one who causes life, freedom, and restoration. He sends his disciples to likewise go forth, “forgive sins of any. Retain the sins of any (Jn 20:23).” They are go into the world to be in the world precisely as the Spirit of Christ is; to bring restorative peace. To bring Alleluia in a world whose sounds of sin, death, and evil become like shrapnel to despairing souls. Blessed are you who have seen Christ walking among us, and have come to believe and serve him in the lease of these. Blessed are you who receive Christ’s peace only to go forth to bring that peace to this world. Blessed are you who have seen the Spirit’s breath, setting ablaze our hearts and making known to us our Alleluia Song. Come. Taste Alleluia. Go. Bathe in its song. Do not Doubt. But Believe. Amen.