John 20: 19-31; 2 Easter; 04232017
I was thinking that I should have asked Darryl to have the choir sing “Darling, you send me” this morning. It’s been sixty years since Sam Cooke wrote that tune, but some songs are timeless, aren’t they? And if our Gospel story has a theme today, it is, Darling, you send me.[i]
I know there are times when we really don’t want Christ to send us. We wish that Jesus would just take care of things himself. If he’d just take care of all the problems in the world, than we wouldn’t have to bother. We could happily croon, Lord, you don’t need to send me, rather than the other way around.
The problem with that approach is that we would never become mature. We would never learn our own potential, because we never would have been challenged. Jesus really wants all of us to be the very best that we can be. You might say that Jesus loves to watch us grow.
Last Sunday, we heard about Mary Magdalene clinging with all her might to Jesus. Sometimes we all need to do that, but there’s a big old world out there. And so Jesus gently broke free from her grasp, and gave her a message to deliver to the disciples. Don’t miss how radical it was, when Mary said to them, “I’ve have seen the Lord!” A woman full of courage was sent to speak the Word to a frightened group of menfolk.
We know that Mary did an awesome job, with the message she was sent with. Jesus had told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples where to gather, and they all did, except, of course, for Thomas. Granted, they were locked down and hiding out, in a room all by themselves; sometimes fear makes us do such things when we’re running low on courage.
Mary might have tried to hang a bit tighter on to Jesus, and who here would have blamed her? But like young birds in a nest, we all need to test our wings and fly where Jesus sends us. And so it was for the frightened menfolk, as they huddled in that room. Soon, they would have to test their wings, wherever the Lord might send them.
For some of these ancient souls, we are left with only legends of where they had been sent to. But go they did, to wherever it might have been that Jesus chose to send them. Perhaps Jesus was familiar with that venerable old saying: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” And when you think about it, he had just rolled a very large stone from the cave he was interred in.
No doubt the disciples were stunned when Jesus suddenly appeared in their locked-down room. When folks are stunned, they often forget to breathe. The brain slows down, as one tries to make sense of what it is that’s happening. We lose our so-called our comfort zone while our brain is rebooting. The disciples might have thought, “Now that was a neat trick, how in the heck did he just do that?” Evidently, Jesus didn’t feel the need to explain himself; he just showed them all his wounds and said, “Peace be with you.”
One thing we can say about Jesus; he has great sense of timing. Knowing that Thomas is truant, Jesus holds off on his sending. He lets the disciples track down Thomas, so he can send them all together. When he revisits the disciple’s room, this time they’re all there to greet him. And, it’s clear that Jesus has their undivided attention.
Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The disciples now have their traveling orders, but they’re still a bit short of the Spirit.
Jesus has an app for that. He breathes on them all and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” We tend to gloss over these words as the focus is on Thomas. But the sending of the twelve has already taken place. And, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, on the Day of Pentecost.
It’s in this sense that Christ intends to send us. He wants to send us with his words to speak, as he fills us with his Spirit. He wants us all to trust in him, as he readies us for our sending. He knows that we grow in strength of Spirit, when we focus on his sending. And he knows that more folks are brought to know him as a product of our sending.
As I speak these words to you today, the sharpened sabers of the world are rattling once again. Armies and such are ramping up, as is the call for soldiers. Once again, we hear the talk of war in the midst of the Easter season. We pray for peace, but we wonder, where is Jesus? Like Thomas, we want to know that Jesus is really with us. As the drums of war increase, it is important becomes more important to recall exactly why he sends us. We are called to do his work of peace, here where we’ve been planted.
If we take the time to look around, we can discern his presence. We can find him in the painted West Texas sunsets, in the colors of his sky. We can him find him in the springtime flowers, and feel his breath upon the wind. We can meet him in the hungry faces that we see out on the sidewalks and the streets. We can know him in the eyes of children, who know not the sin of greed. We can find him in one another, as we lift our hearts and pray. We can find him in the hymns we sing, and in the bread and wine.
Christ’s spirit fills this church, just as his spirit fills our souls. It is he who wants to send us to those who need him most. And if by chance this morning, you sense his breathe upon your face, you might feel the need to croon Sam Cooke’s words of praise. “Darlin, you send me.” Lord, we thank you for your grace.
[i] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/samcooke/yousendme.html, accessed 04/22/2017.