Lectionary Year B
April 27, 2003
Step VI: Contemporary Address
DID YOU GET THE MESSAGE?
I had just awoken. The house was so quiet and peaceful. As I arose and made my
way out of the bedroom I could make out the faint sounds of clicking toys. Looking in
the boys room I saw Andrew quietly playing with his animal friends on the floor. "Hi,
bro." "Daddy, do you see my Tiger. I got him at the toy store. He is really mean and
big. Yeah, and he will bite you." "Yes he will. Buddy, I'm going to go make some
breakfast. Do you want some, too?" "Okay, Daddy."
Hand in hand we walk toward the kitchen. As the kitchen light flickers into
service I carefully scope out the kitchen floor for any surprises from the dog. The
coast being clear, we enter. As I get out our bowls, Andrew stands in front of the
refrigerator waiting. One look and I know trouble is on its way for he is staring at the candy
bowl on top of the refrigerator. "Do you want to have some oatmeal with me, bro?" "Noooo."
With every passing second the situation gets more desperate. Like a stunned
fish I float into his waiting net. "What would you like for breakfast this morning?"
"Bubble gum and suckers, I like bubble gum and suckers, do you like bubble gum and
suckers, too, Daddy?" "Well yes but not for breakfast." "Ah, but I want bubble gum and suckers."
If I could only reason with him or stall him until Katie woke up everything
would be fine. Not Andrew. Suddenly, before I could react or do anything his body had
gone catatonic. Simultaneously his arms stiffened, his hands and fingers curled. The veins
in his neck came out and just as his face turned beet red his head began to quiver
from side to side. Then, through gritted teeth and slanted eye, a gutteral, almost
unnatural sound came out of him. "Noooooo."
The message was clear. That is the good and the bad news about three year olds.
Generally they don't speak with forked tongue. Many adults could use the fresh air of
a clear message. A clear direction. Have you ever said, I wish they would just come
out and say whatever it is instead of playing these games.
The disciples certainly got the message. "Crucify him, crucify him!" No
mistaking that, but now as they sit huddled together, behind closed doors, they sit in
fear. They sit wondering what the message is for them. Its a very confusing time I
Peter and the beloved disciple say they saw the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene says
she saw Jesus. But the booming message of last week still echoes. "Crucify him, crucify
him!" And so they sit together and they wonder. What is the message in all of
this? Will the Jews be coming for us next, do they know us, can they find us? Was it
all a big mistake? Could it be that we were tricked? Were these years an utter waste?
Will I live to see Christ's face? What is the message in all of this?
Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." they rejoiced
and again the Lord said "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit;
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of
any, they are retained." Then one week later he appeared again to the disciples,
including Thomas, who having missed the first appearance still doubted, and Jesus said,
"Peace be with you. Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put
it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." "My Lord and my God", said Thomas. And Jesus
said "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not
seen and yet have come to believe."
Did you get the message? Well, it would be clearer to you if you could read
this text in the Greek, particularly the 21st verse. Here the author of John is
tinkering with the word sent. In English the word is the same but in the Greek there
are two different words. "Pempo" and "Apostello". And if you were trying to get the message straight
you might study the words in John and you would find that the word "apostello" is used by
Jesus when he wants to ground the authority of his work in God and "pempo" is used when he wants to establish the participation of God in His work. So the "apostello-authority" of his work is in God and "pempo-participation" by God in His work.
Now for example in 17:18, Jesus is praying to the Father and says "As you sent
me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Both words for sent are "apostello".
But in our passage at verse 21 the second word sent is "pempo". As the Father has sent
me with His authority, so I am sending you, but I will go with you and participate with
you as well. And then he breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Now tell me, did you get the message? We are not alone. Christ walks with us
in the Spirit. Back again in chapter 17, I wish we could read the whole prayer, but
taken from verse 18 again we find these words of Jesus. "As you have sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that
they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on
behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be
one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the
world may believe that you have sent me."
Christ walks with us in the Spirit, this person who saw Himself as sent by God,
whose personal will was made transparent to God's will and authority, this person is
calling us forth into self-identity like his. We are the people who have been sent by
God into this world that through our obedience the world might believe. The summation to
the gospel is found in the last verse of our passage. Quite succinctly put it says:
"But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." What is the
first gospel anyone will ever read? Your life. We are the living gospels of God, and
like the gospel of John our purpose is that the world might come to believe.
Do you get the message? We are the people, whether scared or doubting, who are sent by
God. Not in some ego-centric sense of being empowered as the chosen ones, but as people
who shine because their lives are transparent to the Light of the World who stands
right behind them.
The problems you will face having this identity are a lot like that story about
Andrew. The world wants bubble gum and suckers for breakfast and the world will not
take long to tell you so in a clear and concise way. Andrew does not want to hear about
how oatmeal and cereal will help him become a big boy. But if I just give in to avoid
the trouble, what kind of a father would I be? The world does not want you or your God
interfering. Just keep quiet and mind your own ways - Christian. But if you
just give in to avoid the trouble, what kind of a sent one would you be?
Did you get the message? We are the sent ones, placed in the world to do the
work of Christ as people who, like Christ, take their identity as ones having been sent
"apostello" and "pempo" by God. If you are here because this is a safe place to huddle with
other disciples out of the sight of the Jews, in doubt, then Jesus has a message for
you. If you are hiding your identity outside of this place, keeping your faith locked
behind the closed doors of your heart, then Jesus has a message for you. "You know,
I have a knack for getting into closed places, either buildings or hearts but listen
to me, Peace be with you, my peace I give to you. As my Father sent me, so I am sending
you. But not alone, not without hope, not without a destiny far greater than
any cost you can weigh, not without my authority and participation. You are my sent
ones for whom I pray before the Father. Do my work.
Let us pray: Father God, come into the midst of our closed places and help us to bend
our will in parrallel to yours. We thank you that you have made us your sent ones, may
your light shine through us to the world now and everyday of our lives. Amen.
A Response from ES
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I learned of your
service a few months ago while completing my seminary studies. I am about
to graduate from Luth. School of Theo. in Chicago. I am in the Diaconal
Ministry program (an ELCA ministry of WORD and SERVICE). I am currently
involved with my DM "Project" which is 200 hours of planning,
organizing, etc. short inter-denominational worship services for a local
hospital. Since I have to prepare and deliver a short homily each week,
and this is all quite new to me (I was a nurse for 33 years prior to
going to LSTC),I am finding your service a real work of the Holy
Spirit. I had a fantastic homiletics professor and did exceptionally well
in that class, but now that I am "on my own", I feel a bit at a loss for
inspiration. I read all the "steps" you provided on this verse and will
incorporate some of the ideas in this weeks service. Hope this is of some
help to you, you certainly were to me.
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