Call to Worship We gather as people on a journey.We believe and we have doubts, we do good and we sin. We are imperfect humans, and still beloved by God.Love and grace. Hope and faith. These are the essence of the one we call God. We seek forgiveness & grace from the One and from those we’ve harmed.Assured of that grace, we are ready to grow again. We yearn for a new way, a new perspective, and a clear path.Though we are full of trust and full of doubt, we are here.
Speak to us, God!Continue creating us! Inspire our hearts. Enlighten our minds. Guide our actions. Amen. ~ written by Tim Graves and posted on LiturgyBits. https://liturgybits.wordpress.com
Scripture ReadingJohn 20:19-31 (New International Version)SermonSheltered in PlaceBright and early on a Sunday morning, after three days in the grave, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene found the empty grave first, and then shared her discovery with disciples Peter and John. Peter and John went to see for themselves, and they too found Jesus’ grave empty. Verses 8 and 9 lead us to believe that both finally understood what Jesus had been telling them, and that both believed Jesus had risen from the dead. Even so, verse 10 tells us, “Then they went home.”However, Mary Magdalene decided to stay. First, she was met by two angels who asked her why she was crying. Then she met the Living Jesus himself, whom she at first thought was the gardener. And then he gave her a message to take back to the disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” So Mary did just that. She told the disciples she had seen the Lord, and then she shared Jesus’ message with them.
But even having received Jesus’ message from Mary Magdalene, John 20:19 tells us that, “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.” Even after seeing the empty grave for themselves and believing that Jesus had risen from the dead, and even after hearing his message from their friend, the disciples were locked behind closed doors because they were afraid. Using a term that has become all too familiar to us lately, the disciples were sheltered in place! Why were the disciples afraid of the Jewish leaders? We might expect that the disciples would be celebrating by this time. Instead, we find them hunkered down because they were afraid. And John specifically states that the doors were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. This is likely due to two things. First, it was probably common knowledge at this point that they were Jesus’ closest and most faithful friends. Second, the disciples were probably already well-aware of the rumor being circulated that Jesus had not risen from the dead, but that they themselves had stolen Jesus’ body to make it look that way. The Jewish leaders had been instrumental in Jesus’ crucifixion, claiming Caesar as their only king. So why wouldn’t they hand Jesus’ disciples the same fate?It is also possible that something else was troubling the disciples. They believed that Jesus was truly alive, and maybe they weren’t quite ready to face him yet. After all, they had failed him miserably. Peter had denied him three times, and the rest had deserted him (except for John, who had been at the cross and had taken Jesus’ mother into his home). Perhaps the last person the disciples wanted to meet on that evening was a living, breathing Jesus who they imagined would confront them with their failures.
So, maybe like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were trying to hide from their failures and from the Almighty Himself.Jesus, however, was not to be stopped by locked doors. And Jesus, who is the “door” of the sheep himself (John 10:7), came right through those locked doors that night, and appeared in the middle of all of them.
But Jesus’ words were not chastisement or rebuke. He didn’t confront his disciples with their failures. He came to grant them peace. His greeting, “Peace be with you,” carries the sense of the Hebrew greeting “shalom,” a blessing that connotes not just tranquility, but a deep and holistic sense of well-being -- the kind of peace the world cannot give (John 14:27).Then Jesus showed his disciples his hands and his side, so that they could see that he was the real, crucified Jesus in the flesh. They weren’t seeing a ghost or having a vision. And finally, the disciples responded by rejoicing in seeing Jesus alive again, just as he had promised (John 16:22).
As we consider our own lives it’s hard not to think of our current global situation. COVID-19 does not offer peace. Like the disciples sheltered in place for fear of the Jewish leaders, we are facing a lot of unknowns in the days and weeks to come.Maybe the question asked most often is, “When will we get back to normal?”Right now, that’s a question for which we do not have an answer. Realistically maybe we will never return to the old normal. Instead, as was the case with the 9/11 attack, our culture will shift and we will find a new normal.I think it’s safe to say that the disciples never returned to their old normal. They didn’t go back to being fisherman and tax collectors. The resurrection of Jesus rendered them forever changed. They had been transformed into bold, courageous men who would carry the Good News of Jesus into the world. Most of them died as martyrs for their faith. But how did they find the strength? Why did their fears subside so much that they were able to leave behind the locked room Jesus found them in that Sunday evening? I believe it had something to do with Jesus greeting, “Peace be with you.”
We are familiar with the phrase “peace that passes all understanding.” When we say these words, we are talking about the peace that we have because of our relationship with God. We can only know this peace because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. This is the peace Jesus offered his disciples that day, and it is the same peace that he offers to all who believe. It is the true peace and the everlasting peace.The apostle Paul tells us this in Ephesians 2:13-14,”In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one.”In this letter, Paul was addressing the cultural crisis of his day: a divide between Jewish and Greek Christians. For hundreds of years, the Jews had believed that if you were Jewish, you were in; if you weren’t, you were out. Even if a non-Jew took steps toward the one true God, he was marginalized in Jewish society.So, Paul was saying something revolutionary here. He preached there was no more division in the body of believers, because we are one now. And the only reason we are one is because Jesus died on the cross, taking on the punishment of our sins.
The Hebrew word for peace in Ephesians 2:14 is eirene, and it means “peace, quietness, rest” but it also means “set at one again (or set right again).” Eirene is a word of reconciliation and unification.Because Jesus paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross, we are now at peace with God and with one another — no matter our past, no matter where we came from, and no matter the color of our skin. In Jesus, we are one. He truly is our peace.How did the disciples transform in such a magnificent way? Because God’s peace, the peace that Jesus brought through his sacrifice on the cross, had reconciled them back to their Creator God. And peace with God means we have nothing to fear.
Peace didn’t mean the disciple’s lives would become easy. It didn’t mean they would return to their old lives. The peace they had through their Savior changed them and regardless of what they faced, they were able to conquer the world with the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection.“Peace be with you.” Those words are as true for the believer today as they were then. “Peace be with you.” It doesn’t mean we won’t face trials and tribulations. What it does mean is this: You have peace with God through his Son Jesus Christ. He will walk through all things with you and give you strength for each day. He will be with you always through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.May the peace of our Risen Savior be with you as we begin a brand-new week!
The Lord’s PrayerOur Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing for This DayTrusting in God’s PromisesMay you trust in God’s promises to his people: peace, security, blessing,even when they are difficult to believe.May you know that God’s news is good news,Nourishing, true, even when people tell you it is not.And when you encounter doubt, may you strengthen your beliefguiding you in his perfect wisdom and counsel. Amen. ~ posted on Jeff’s Blog. https://blog.wisch.org/category/benedictions-and-prayers/