A Decade of Destiny and a Fresh Start

Worship + 2: The Centrality of Worship
April 10, 2017
I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me
April 10, 2017

John 20:19-22

Jesus offers us a new beginning

A glance at the newspaper will reveal a world churning with troubles. Only few weeks ago when we were in Taiwan our Asian neighbor, Japan, suffered a severe earthquake, followed by a tsunami, and weeks of radioactive leakage. Killer tornadoes plowed a furrow of destruction through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wars and insurgencies still rage in Afghanistan, Iraq, while internal turmoil boils up in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Along our own southernmost border the death toll keeps climbing in violent drug wars in Mexico.

On a more personal level, we all feel the effects of the global economic downswing, with employment cutbacks, states in bankruptcy; loss of jobs; threats to job security; rising prices of gasoline. The turbulence increases stress on marriages and families. Many parents face the ominous evils of drug abuse in the children. Many children are under threat. Homeowners have gone into foreclosure, not to mention the specter of global warming. There are many reasons to feel gloom and many people despair. We live in challenging times.

So did the friends of Jesus just after his murder by crucifixion. His disciples huddled in a room with fear hanging so thick you could cut it with a knife. Doors locked; they had secret knocks; they spoke in whispers. Hearts quivered and would turn over every time someone knocked. Danger. Caution. Threat. They were real! Disciples of Jesus were paralyzed with fear

They all had reason to fear and despair. Just three days before they witnessed their friend and teacher arrested, brutalized, tortured, nailed to a cross and left to die in agony. The police patrolled the streets in a dragnet set to catch any remaining followers on the Nazarene heretic. Dark clouds of despair and grief hung heavy in the room.

Into that thick gloom, fear, despair stepped Jesus. Locked doors cannot keep him out. The large stone could not keep him in the tomb. He appeared to the disciples without rebuke. He didn’t scold them, “Why did you sleep like hibernating bears while I prayed? Why did you desert me and all run away like cowards? Peter, why did you deny you knew who I was? No, Jesus pronounced the words they needed to hear, “Peace be with you”. “Peace be with you.” Jesus demonstrates that God is for us, not against us.

We “frail children of dust a feeble as frail,” can hear the words of Jesus as his words to us today, “Peace be with you.” Peace, shalom, it’s the Hebrew word that means the well-being of all relationships. Those grace-filled words penetrated their fears, shame, and grief like a beam of light cuts through a dark mine shaft.  Better, like the sun breaking through the clouds after the storm. Jesus’ light-filled words let them know, as he wants to let us know, that God accepts us. You are accepted! I am accepted. They thought everything was over, that they had failed, they had betrayed, they had turned tail and run like rabbits, but Jesus gave them a new start. In a few words he transported them out of a deep pit or miry clay and stood them upon a solid rock and established their goings. He embraced their weaknesses. Their paralyzing fear turned to hilarious joy!

For those first disciples of Jesus, this was not the end. This new Easter faith defied death and ignited a new fire. Jesus resurrection signaled a New Creation, new life, new beginning, resurrection, joy! Hope filled the room like air fills a balloon. Hope is faith in its future orientation. Jesus gave those discouraged disciples what they needed most: They needed proof that evil will not triumph and have the last word. Sin, injustice, lies, betrayal, denial, cowardice, murder, fear…even death does not have the last word. Jesus stepped into their locked room, (locked doors cannot keep him out!) He came right into their gloom and doom and brought life and light, hope and peace, love and joy. They needed a second chance and that’s what Jesus gives, generously, abundantly, joyfully. We all need a second chance don’t we? When we’ve made a mess of everything, when we’ve blown it. God wipes the slate clean and gives us a fresh start a new beginning. But there is more!

Jesus gives a new mission

Jesus did not leave them there wondering about the future. He set them on a mission.  He repeated his greeting, “Peace be with you.” Then he spokes amazing words. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” With that, those first disciples learned that God has a master plan for them. They were to be sent people, commissioned by God to take a message of God’s love, of peace and hope to spread it throughout the world.

You see, God sent Jesus into he world and showed him how to do it. Jesus sent the disciples into the world and showed them how to do it. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” You and I in Broad Street UMC are in last link in a great chain that goes all the way back to Jesus Christ. Jesus is still showing us how to do it. 

Jesus sent those disciples out, a handful of men and women to change the world. That is a tall order. They had no cars, no cell phones, no GPS systems, no computers. The world is a big place. The message was about God’s embracing love. I think we all know John 3:16 because that verse contained the truth of God in compact form. Please quote it with me: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believes in him, will not perish, but have eternal life.”  

The Father sent Jesus. Jesus sends the disciples into the world. Read the Gospel of John through sometime in one or two sittings.  Circle every time you see the word send or sent. The Gospel writer skillfully weaves that theme throughout the gospel.

  • “There was a man sent from God his name was John.” (John 1:6)
  • Often Jesus describes himself as “the One the Father sent into the world”, or “the Father sent the Son.”
  • In chapter 9 Jesus put clay on a blind man’s eyes and sent him to wash his face in the pool of Siloam. The Gospel writer added a little note to the reader: “Siloam means sent”. (John 9:20) 
  • Jesus promised that after he leaves this world and returns to God, the Father will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit in his name (John 14:26)
  • In John 20 the resurrected Jesus sends the disciples into the world

Jesus equips us with a new Spirit

Jesus sends out but Jesus equips. He doesn’t send us out alone. “He breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit.”  God gives the Divine presence to work through us. God wants us to do it, but God will always be with us. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus sends the disciples out to make disciples of all nations, and he promises, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

So what bothers you today? What troubles you? What causes fear in you? Jesus enters and speaks grace filled words of peace and acceptance.

But he doesn’t leave it at that. He also sends you something to do. In your corner of the world he sends you. God sends you. You are a missionary. God sends some people across the oceans; others across the street.  You are all missionaries, sent ones from God. Broad Street United Church is a mission station to bear witness to the good news in word and deed here in Burlington. “It isn’t crossing the sea but seeing the cross that makes a missionary.”

The mission of this church is to spread and increase the love of God and neighbor in the world. That is the purpose of the church and all its activities and endeavors. God sends us all with a new message,

Jesus sends us out with a new message

We have a message of God’s goods news.

  • forgiving love: “Neither do I condemn you (John 8:11)
  • fullness of life:  “I have come to bring life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
  • freedom from bondages: “Whoever the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36)
  • New family: “To all who receive him, those who believe on his name he gives the right to become children of God! (John 1:12)

Stef and I served in mission to Kenya and Tanzania (in East Africa) 6 years

Philippines 4 years, Taiwan 7+ years. But we are also in mission just a much here in Burlington. The culture and context changes, but it is still God’s mission, God’s sending.

We served in distinctly different cultures and learned from each one of them. Each enhanced our lives as we learned how to find Christ embodied in different cultures and customs. 

Jesus enters our self-imposed prisons right through locked doors. He gives us a fresh start, a clean slate for this “Decade of Destiny. Jesus says to you “Peace be to you.” 

Jesus offers us a new beginning

He gives us  new mission

Jesus equips us with a new Spirit

Jesus sends us out with a new message 

Its all new, fresh, clean. It comes from God. The missionary, the Apostle Paul put it this way:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

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